Customer Review

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not so Harrowing, 15 Mar 2006
This review is from: Harrowing the Dragon (Paperback)
Some authors are good at full-length books. Some are good at short stories. And then there are a rare few that can actually do both at the same time, with no lag in quality.
"Harrowing the Dragon" demonstrates that Patricia McKillip is one of the third group. These fifteen short stories -- previously published in various anthologies -- demonstrate how lushly textured writing and exquisite plots make McKillip's short stories almost as good as her full-length books.
She starts off the collection with two novella: the long out-of-print "Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath," a haunting story about an island kept in perpetual winter by a sleeping dragon, and a proud young man determined to stop it; and then there is "A Matter of Music," where a young bard tries to bring peace and music to the ones around her.
Then there are the smaller stories: A contemporary retelling of "The Snow Queen," where Kay is lured from his loving wife by a sultry woman, rural witches gather, a mysterious stranger changes the sky over a village, four women set out to rescue the Queen's bard, and a troll falls in love with a princess. It ends with a charming brief look at how the "frog prince" (who is actually a toad) sees the whole story.
This collection will be something of a godsend to McKillip's readers -- many of these stories were only available in out-of-print anthologies. So getting ahold of them was annoying, assuming that it was possible to find them at all. And this collection can serve as an introduction to McKillip's writing for new readers, if her lushly-written novels seem intimidating.
So it's nice to have (most of) her stories compiled together. It also displays the range of her abilities -- she can do humour and tragedy, fantasy and realism, and even rework older stories. Not much is added to the "Beauty and the Beast" retelling, except for McKillip's use of the ancient Psyche legend. Instead, it's the beauty of her language.
McKillip's writing is known for its incandescent quality; she fills it with jewels, flames, music, snow, griffins, witches and fantastical creatures. Her writing can be clear and sharp as an icicle, or as rich and soft as aged velvet. Even stories that could have been goofy or gimmicky -- like her recounting of "Romeo and Juliet's" aftermath -- surprisingly beautiful and poignant.
After many years, Patricia McKillip's shorter writings are finally compiled into "Harrowing the Dragon," a charming read full of magic and mystery.
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