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Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 29, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up—In this companion to Water (Putnam, 2002), McKinley and Dickinson explore the range of their storytelling abilities. The settings of these five tales range from ancient to modern, but they are all united by encounters with magical creatures with an affinity for fire. In "Phoenix," Ellie's love for forests leads her to Dave and Welly, caretakers of the ancient Phoenix, displaced from its Egyptian home to damp, chilly Britain. "Hellhound" features animal-loving Miri, whose choice of a red-eyed shelter dog proves providential when she must face a malevolent spirit. In "Fireworm," Tandin spirit-walks to defeat the fireworm that threatens his clan, though in doing so he develops empathy for the creature and its mate and distances himself from his people. "Salamander Man" finds orphaned Tib caught up in a bewildering chain of events, which results in him taking the form of a flaming giant to free the salamanders and rid his city of corrupt magicians. "First Flight," the longest piece, deals with Ern, who helps a dragon with a missing eye find its way back into the Flame Space, which dragons use to travel quickly through time and space. All of these individuals learn something about themselves in their encounters with the fire beasts, and all are the better for it in the end. This collection of beautifully crafted tales will find a warm welcome from fans of either author, as well as from fantasy readers in general.—Misti Tidman, Boyd County Public Library, Ashland, KY END


"This collection of beautifully crafted tales will find a warm welcome from fans of either author, as well as from fantasy readers in general." --School Library Journal

"McKinley's fans can only hope that she will return to this world in a future novel." --Kirkus

"The two writers' talents are well matched, creating a volume that's even in tone and quality while introducing novelty with every story opening." --Horn Book

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Juvenile; 1 edition (October 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399252894
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,799,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robin McKinley has won various awards and citations for her writing, including the Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown and a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword. Her other books include Sunshine; the New York Times bestseller Spindle's End; two novel-length retellings of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Beauty and Rose Daughter; and a retelling of the Robin Hood legend, The Outlaws of Sherwood. She lives with her husband, the English writer Peter Dickinson.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By atavism on December 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
It's been the better part of a decade since husband and wife Peter Dickinson and Robin McKinley last teamed up to write Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits. Now they have once again joined forces to produce another collection of short stories, this one focused on fire. Unlike their previous attempt, in which McKinley's efforts clearly outshined Dickinson's, in Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits, both authors put forward amazing fantasy stories that run the gamut from an eerie ghost story to a heartbreakingly bittersweet prehistoric fable, but all of which share the common thread of fire.

There are five stories in this collection, three by Dickinson and two substantially longer ones by Mckinley:

--Phoenix, by Dickinson, tells the story of an elderly British gamekeeper who discovers a phoenix, and as a result, begins to age backwards. Despite being placed first in the book, and having the best beginning, Phoenix is the weak link of the collection, and has a disappointing and anticlimactic ending. Still, don't get discouraged if you read this tale and find it lacking; the other four stories are significantly better.

--McKinley's Hellhound is a nail-biting account of a young woman and her hellhound who find themselves forced into a confrontation in a haunted graveyard. McKinley's love of animals shines in this story, as the bulk of it takes place at a riding stable, and cats, horses, dogs, and birds are practically everywhere.

--Dickinson's Fireworm is a prehistoric fable about a group of cavedwellers who must fight off their ancient enemy the fireworm. The line between heroes and monsters is completely wiped away, and midway through it's clear that regardless of the outcome, this is going to end in tragedy.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Marysia on October 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I'm surprised at all the glowing reviews for this collection. Both terrific authors in their own right, Robin McKinley and husband Peter Dickinson team up on Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits to give us five new stories of fantastical worlds. Unfortunately it remains a half-baked collection. Robin McKinley's and Peter Dickinson's Water collection was not perfect but a joy nonetheless, all the stories well crafted and full of interesting surprises. Fire, their latest installment in the projected elementals series, is not as strong. The stories suffer from being under- or overwritten, some confusing plot holes, and in some cases a real lack of cohesion.

The first story is "Phoenix" by Peter Dickinson, in which an elderly man finds a phoenix and interesting things happen as a result. The story didn't particularly grip me but I realize this is more of a personal preference, so I will say it is at least well written. It also touches upon some thought-provoking themes of rebirth, hope, and religion.

In "Hellhound" by Robin McKinley, a teen girl who works on her family horse ranch buys a new dog that is more than he seems. This one was also well written and easy to read. The hellhound was lovable, the family dynamic engaging, and the suspense really nail-biting at times. All in all a strong story.

"Fireworm" by Peter Dickinson was a great premise. A young man in a prehistoric setting must fight off a fireworm that consistently steals the tribe's fire. The collection goes downhill from here. It's not the subject matter; I adore prehistoric fiction, such as Maroo of the Winter Caves and Boy of the Painted Cave. The mythos in this story evoked Native American mythology.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. K. Lambiris on November 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've admired both these writers for decades, for very different reasons. That they should be married to each other, and work together on projects like this, is a near-miraculous gift of fate. Dickenson, in my opinion, is one of the best writers at communicating unexpected and strange ideas in a way that makes them understandable and exciting, while McKinley has an ability to create characters and societies that ring true at every turn. Both skills are on display in this collection.

In my opinion the strongest stories are the first and the last--each dominated by a fire-creature which is so much a part of mythical tradition it might seem nothing new could be said about either. Yet Dickenson's phoenix, and the people who serve it, are not like any other phoenix-legend I know. The story is perhaps most notable for having no real antagonist, except the natural consequences of time and death. This is very appropriate, since the legend of the phoenix has always been about time, death and renewal. If you're looking for blood and thunder, you won't find much of that here--but a quieter, more inquiring mind will find much to consider. And if the world seems a little too good and beautiful to be real--well, the phoenix has that effect on ordinary mortals, and time and death become more terrible when what they destroy is loved and loveable.

McKinley's dragon story is less original--dragonriding is a well-worn trope of fantasy--but it is no less charming, and in many ways much more gritty. Again, there is no real antagonist; the struggle is against circumstance and disability, and the natural human reluctance to admit weaknesses.
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