29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not so "Harrowing"
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...
Published on November 6, 2005 by E. A Solinas
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected
If you're looking for a reading similar to the Riddlemaster's Game or the Alphabet of Thorn, you'll probably be disappointed. These short stories read more like a literary exercise; although promising most seem to be rushed to the end while others are just not interesting enough plot-wise. I would only recommend it for die-hard McKillip fans.
Published 6 months ago by Panagiotis Poulos
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not so "Harrowing",
This review is from: Harrowing the Dragon (Hardcover)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.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of the Year, to Date,
This review is from: Harrowing the Dragon (Hardcover)Patricia A. McKillip's first-ever collection of short fiction is a winner, every bit as rewarding as her fine novels, better in some ways. It's a showcase of small gems from an author obviously just as comfortable and accomplished in the short form as in the long.
As in her best novels--OMBRIA IN SHADOW, SONG FOR THE BASILISK, ALPHABET OF THORN--McKillip's strength lies in creating both strong, attractive characters and a sense of atmosphere that draws the reader in. The beauty of these stories is the economy and pace at which these things are accomplished; while each piece completes it's arc in a completely satisfactory (and author-ly) way, there were several times I found myself wishing I was reading a novel, and that there would be more about these people and places forthcoming.
There was not a story that I didn't like, not a one I thought wasn't among the best fantasy fiction I have read this year. Some are so good, you have to wonder why McKillip doesn't get far more attention than she does, and what this says about the exposure and attention given to short fantasy in the market today.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fabulous fantasy collection,
This review is from: Harrowing the Dragon (Hardcover)This compilation of fifteen fantasies written in the 1980s (4) and 1990s (11) by award-winner Patricia A. McKillip are all delightful tales that showcases a wonderful author who is as comfortable with short stories as she is with novels. Few writers can match Ms. McKillip's skills with taking the standard sub-genre rudiments and turning them into the tools of Od Magic that make her such a terrific fantasist. All are superior entries, but this reviewer especially enjoyed the retelling of fairy tales. Each of the contributions is different, but share in common messages involving freedom to choose. Fans will enjoy this strong enticing anthology with tales like the official crime scene investigators looking into the suspicious deaths of Romeo and Juliet that seem so much like a murder-suicide crime of passion. A terrific imagination makes this a fine reading experience.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Hoarsbreath is a Dragon's Heart...",
And for those already well-versed in the magic of McKillip's writing, a series of stories is an added bonus to add to a collection. McKillip is just as skilled in the creation of short stories as she is in full-length novels, and sometimes a quick-fix of her work is just what a devoted reader needs. Containing fifteen stories (some of which span a few pages, others which are better described as novellas); there's enough variety amongst them to keep each one fresh and interesting.
In the story that gives the book its title, "Harrowing the Dragon", a dragon-slayer comes to the island of Hoarsbreath in order to harrow the dragon from its shores. He is joined by a native of the island, a young woman who isn't too sure if she wants the dragon to go. "A Matter of Music" concerns Cresce Dami, a bard who has freshly graduated from her school with ambitions of playing in Daghian. Attempting to negotiate her way through the rules and etiquette of playing music in a high court, Cresce becomes involved in the political machinations of the countries surrounding her. These stories are by far the longest in the entire book, and are typical of McKillip's wonderful world-building and imagery.
McKillip borrows from other fairytales too: in "Baba Yaga and the Sorcerer's Son", she uses the Russian folklore of Baba Yaga and her chicken-legged house to imagine a meeting between the witch and a young wizard who needs her help, whilst the Hans Christian Anderson tale of "The Snow Queen" imagines a contemporary setting in which Kay cheats on his devoted wife Gerda with a beautiful stranger...but Gerda - whose entire life has revolved around Kay - finds a hidden strength of her own to survive his betrayal. "The Lion and the Lark" is an amalgamation of several fairytales, (most obviously Beauty and the Beast, though keep your eyes open for the others) which makes it a little predictable, though ends with an image of amazing imaginary force. Finally, in the story that ends the book, "Toad" is an explanatory back-story of "The Frog Prince", explaining why the prince would agree to marry such a spoilt princess. McKillip looks deep into the imagery at work throughout the fairytale, using the golden ball and the frog's intrusion into the princess's life as a metaphor for her burgeoning maturity. I'll never look at the Frog Prince the same way again.
As well as building on other sources, McKillip creates fairytales all her own. In "A Troll and Two Roses" she weaves the tale of an ugly troll who becomes enraptured by a beautiful rose and its connection to two enchanted lovers, while in "The Fellowship of the Dragon" five bards go out in search of the Queen's favourite harper, only to fall prey to the traps and snares strewn throughout the wood they must traverse. "Lady of the Skulls" (one of my favourites) involves a mysterious tower in the desert, to which many questing knights travel, attracted by the promise that should they take the most precious thing that it holds, they will be allowed to keep it. The catch? If they choose wrongly, they die. Then there's "The Stranger", which concerns a man who forms dragons out of the colours in nature and his own imagination, and the weaver-woman who tries to prevent him from the destruction he wreaks. In "Voyage into the Heart", we are privy to a unicorn hunt in which the bait (a young virgin naturally) is unaware of her part to play in its capture.
There are two other stories that don't seem to fit into any category: "The Witches of Junket", which involves three prodigal grand-daughters returning to their hometown to help destroy an escaping evil, and my personal favourite "Starcrossed", which concerns the investigation into the deaths of Romeo and Juliet by a soldier who is disillusioned with love. It's a fantastic concept, and McKillip pulls it off brilliantly.
Lastly there are two little stories (which come across more like experimental writing exercises) "Ash, Wood, Fire" and "Transmutations", the former concerning the dynamics of a medieval kitchen, the latter exploring what goes on in an alchemical laboratory. They are probably the weakest stories of the anthology, but they are both reasonably short (and with other such exemplary stories on display, it doesn't really bear complaining about). Besides, thirteen out of fifteen ain't bad.
Altogether, this is a great collection and a must for any McKillip (not to mention K. Y. Craft, who always provides beautiful cover art) fan.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There are no better writers than Patricia McKillip,
This review is from: Harrowing the Dragon (Hardcover)Patricia McKillip is my favorite fantasy writer for a reason. She hasn't written one bad paragraph in her entire career, and I've read everything she's written. I've been reading Science Fiction and Fantasy for 40 years, and I've never come across an author whose fantasy was quite as gorgeous as McKillips. Her characters are fascinating, her plots move at a meandering, but decent pace, and her worlds are lush and dreamlike. I always feel as if I've had one of those miraculous moments of connectivity with the magic of the world when I read her work. Everything takes on a brilliant cast, and the world seems a beautiful place because of her gracious work. This book is no exception, filled with generous chapters of rich storytelling. I can't recommend it enough, but then, I recommend all of her books. It's hard for me to pick a favorite, but I must say that I adored the Book of Atrix Wolfe, and Winter Rose.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shorter Works,
"The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath" (Elsewhere, 1982) tells of two miner's children, who returned to the island of cold and gold.
"A Matter of Music" (Elsewhere, 1984) takes Cresce to Daghian as its Bard.
"A Troll and Two Roses" (Faery!, 1985) concerns a troll named Thorn, who liked to scare travelers crossing his bridge.
"Baba Yaga and the Sorcerer's Son" (Dragons and Dreams, 1986) brings a young sorcerer to the witch with a problem.
"The Fellowship of the Dragon" (After the King, 1992) involves five questors looking for a harper and a black dragon.
"Lady of the Skulls" (Strange Dreams, 1993) takes six treasure seekers to a castle in the desert.
"The Snow Queen" (Snow White, Blood Red, 1993) relates the breakup of a couple and the consequences.
"Ash, Wood, Fire" (The Women's Press, 1993) examines a day in the life of the firetender in a kitchen.
"The Stranger" (Temporary Walls, 1993) introduces a stranger with magic in his music into a village.
"Transmutations" (Xanadu 2, 1994) concerns an old alchemist, his apprentice, and an ambitious barmaid.
"The Lion and the Lark" (The Armless Maiden, 1995) follows a girl who honors her father.
"The Witches of Junket" (Sisters in Fantasy, 1996) pits a witch coven against the monster in Oyster Rock.
"Star-Crossed" (Shakespearean Whodunnit, 1997) investigates the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.
"Voyage into the Heart" (Voyages, 1999) searches for a virgin to attract a unicorn.
"Toad" (Silver Birch, Blood Moon, 1999) confronts a princess with a frog and her promises.
These tales were all published in original anthologies, hence the wide spectrum of plots. They illustrate the breadth of her talents.
Highly recommended for McKillip fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of magical fantasy, enthralling storytelling, and a bit of romance. Read and enjoy!
-Arthur W. Jordin
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A culmination of 25 years of best writings,
This review is from: Harrowing the Dragon (Hardcover)Patricia A. McKillip's HARROWING THE DRAGON is a must for any prior fan or any fan of fantasy: it presents a culmination of twenty-five years of her works, gathering an anthology of the best of her stories of dragons, princesses, and heroes. Old fans won't be disappointed, either: it gathers such stories from her previously unpublished works and thus provides a fresh group for fans.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully told fairytales,
This review is from: Harrowing the Dragon (Hardcover)McKillip's fairytales are some of the most beautiful, heartfelt adventures that I have ever read. She starts out strong with her first short story, Harrowing the Dragon, and continues with more delightful adventures. I will be honest, some of her stories left me puzzled, however, I did rush through them. I am certain that if I reread them, they would be better understood. Although this is a collection of short stories, each story is so detailed and the characters are so vibrant, I never felt cheated out of a full length story. McKillip sort of reminds me a little of LeGuin . . . beautiful prose used to convey her fantastical adventures. Although Amazon touted such books as "The Stolen Child" as the "new" fairy tales, I would definetly suggest McKillip instead as she masters the art of the fairy tale like no other.
4.0 out of 5 stars Patricia McKillop,
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected,
This review is from: Harrowing the Dragon (Kindle Edition)If you're looking for a reading similar to the Riddlemaster's Game or the Alphabet of Thorn, you'll probably be disappointed. These short stories read more like a literary exercise; although promising most seem to be rushed to the end while others are just not interesting enough plot-wise. I would only recommend it for die-hard McKillip fans.
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Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia A. McKillip (Hardcover - November 1, 2005)
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