Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia McKillip

(9.5/10) Harrowing the Dragon is a collection done right: all the author�s current short fiction in one place

Patricia A. McKillip needs no introduction. Her surreal, poetic, lucid-dream fantasies have been enchanting readers for more than thirty years. Her work has won and been nominated for several awards, and won the World Fantasy award twice.

Harrowing the Dragon collects the author’s short fiction from the first half of her prolific career into one volume. As varied as they are inventive, these tales are rich in the vivid imagery and deep symbolism McKillip is known for, and contain all the power of her longer work. More than any of her contemporaries, McKillip evokes the sense of true fairy tales, and in a few stories she even tries her hand at retellings (“The Snow Queen,” “The Lark and the Lion,” “Toad”).

The stories appear in the order in which they were published, giving readers an overview of one talented writer’s evolution of style. Newcomers to McKillip’s works should know that the stories are a good representation of her novels in any given era. Readers who like the earlier, more esoteric stories should try The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. Those who prefer the later, sunnier stories may try Alphabet of Thorn, Song for the Basilisk, or The Book of Atrix Wolfe. Either way, Harrowing the Dragon is a good starting place.

A recently published collection, Wonders of the Invisible World, includes the rest of McKillip’s short stories from the late 90’s through 2012. Missing only a few odds and end such as “The Gorgon in the Cupboard” novella and a Witch World story, these two books are more complete than most authors’ haphazardly selected collections. Long-time fans of McKillip will be delighted to find these previously hard-to-obtain stories. Harrowing the Dragon is a collection done right: all the author’s current short fiction in one place.

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