From Publishers Weekly
Each highly respected authors in their own right, husband and wife Dickinson (The Ropemaker) and McKinley (Spindle's End) collaborate for the first time on a collection of enchanting tales linked by an aquatic theme. Infused with selkie legends and Greek and Roman underworld myths, the tales possess a consistently compelling, rhythmic tone, despite the fact that the authors alternate in the tellings. Dickinson's opening "Mermaid Song" sets the tone for a tenuous relationship between those who dwell on sand and in sea; only the landsman who has listened to the stories passed down through generations can accord the sea its proper respect. McKinley's "The Sea-King's Son" builds on the traditional tale of the Sea-King's daughter who falls in love with a musician, but with a satisfying twist. Taken together, the installments also raise some thought-provoking issues. In "Mermaid Song," for instance, Pitiable Nasmith must lie in order to escape her grandfather's abusive home, while Hetta in "A Pool in the Desert" struggles with what constitutes truth. The workings of the Guardians' magic in McKinley's "Water Horse" remains mysterious, and Dickinson never entirely explains the gender-divided mythology in "Sea Serpent" but fans of myths won't mind filling in the gaps. These creative interpretations brim with suspenseful, chilling and wonderfully supernatural scenes, from Iril's daring plan to kill the murderous sea serpent to Hetta's literal leap of faith. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 6 Up-Two generally brilliant writers alternate first-rate tales in this six-story collection. McKinley allows hearts' desires to be achieved in all three of her contributions: one young woman braves a curse and falls in love with "The Sea-King's Son"; another discovers her own subtle kind of magic in defeating a giant, wildly destructive "Water Horse." A third dreams of Damar, the setting of McKinley's Blue Sword (1982) and Hero and the Crown (1984, both Greenwillow), then finds a way to travel there, escaping through space and time from a soul-deadening existence. In Dickinson's tales, which are darker in tone, a "Mermaid Song" helps an abused child escape her violent father; a lame ferryman, caught in a struggle between old gods and new, battles an immense "Sea Serpent"; and while helping to save human lovers from drowning, a mer-princess draws the attention of an immortal, coldly alien "Kraken" from the deeps. The masterfully written stories all feature distinct, richly detailed casts and settings, are free of the woodenly formal language that plagues so much fantasy, and focus as strongly on action as on character. There's plenty here to excite, enthrall, and move even the pickiest readers.
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John Peters, New York Public Library
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.