Lord Dunsany was one of the handful of fantasy writers before "Lord of the Rings" took the world by storm. Now "Wonder Tales" compiles two of his best short story collections, with their exotic fairy tales ranging from the comic to macabre. "The Book of Wonder" is a mix of all kinds of fantasy tales: a pair of dueling idols; a man whose interest in his imaginary land eclipses the real world; a magical window that shows amazing things; suitors try to make a cold queen cry; the story of the Gibbelins, who eat "nothing less good than man"; and of Miss Cubbins and the Dragon of Romance. "Time and the Gods" is a radically different kind of story. Ever read the Silmarillion? Dunsany jumps into similar turf with his invented legends of gods and heroes, such as the story of Time and how it overthrew even what the gods favored, how Inzana lost her golden ball (an enchanting little sun legend), the meeting between Night and Morning, and the tale of Slid, an upstart young god. Dunsany's fantasies aren't as vibrantly realistic as J.R.R. Tolkien's, or as pensive as C.S. Lewis's. Instead they're like fantastical, melancholy little paintings. Some are whimsical ("Miss Cubbins," "Chu-Bu and Sheemish"), while others are majestic and mythic, like the entire "Time and the Gods" book. Dunsany's writing is lush and descriptive, but in the slightly distant style of the late nineteenth/early twentieth century. He handled comedy, tragedy, horror, and made-up legends with skill and imagination. Not to mention that his mythmaking -- one of the earliest examples of a fictional mythology -- is astoundingly realistic and beautifully made. "Wonder Tales" is an excellent collection of some of Dunsany's best short stories. Vivid and beautifully written, this early fantasy writer is a must-have.