12/08/2005 Entry: "HARROWING THE DRAGON -- McKillip Collection, Great Selections (Rebekah)"
HARROWING THE DRAGON has been a long time coming. It's a collection of the best of Patricia McKillip's short stories from the last twenty-five years. I'm a big McKillip fan so only two of the fifteen stories were new to me, but that also means over the years I've tracked down and bought thirteen random anthologies. Now I have the best of the stories inside one lovely Kinuko Craft cover.
I approve of the story choices for this collection. McKillip can be very opaque, and while I enjoy the lovely language, sometimes I still wonder what in the world actually happened in the story.
The stories in this collection are her more successful (in my opinion), i.e., beautiful but still accessible. My all-time favorite remains "The Fellowship of the Dragon," where five female members of a queen's court go in search of the queen's kidnapped lover. The novella "A Matter of Music" is also excellent--McKillip makes you hear in your mind instruments that never existed.
A few of the stories aren't even Fantasy when stripped down to the bare plots, such as "In the middle of a long harsh winter, a woman loses her lover and discovers herself." In fact multiple of them could be seen as fairly mundane when described in plain plot-points, like "scullery maid grows up and leaves the kitchen." But McKillip's writing is anything but mundane or plain. Her words create living tapestries of magic, leaving you pleasantly muddled and prone to poetic phrases (though I'm trying to resist).
For new readers to McKillip, I'd recommend starting with one her of novels such as RIDDLEMASTER OF HED or BOOK OF ATRIX WOLFE, but for readers already somewhat acquainted with McKillip, this is a great collection.--Rebekah
--HARROWING THE DRAGON at Amazon (hb)