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WATER by Robin McKinley


Tales of Elemental Spirits

by Robin McKinley & Peter Dickinson

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: June 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-399-23796-8
Publisher: Putnam

Veteran fantasists bring six new short stories to readers in a collection that explores aspects of water both benign and malignant. The subjects are quite varied: a young woman, abused by her grandfather, saves a water-girl and, in doing so, herself; a land-girl meets and falls in love with “The Sea-King’s Son,” in a sort of happy reversal of “The Little Mermaid”; a wily ferryman outsmarts a sea serpent and unseats the old goddesses; a young apprentice Guardian pressed into service far too early nevertheless saves the land from a rampaging Water-Horse; a rebellious mermaid-princess plumbs the depths of the sea’s darkness in “Kraken”; and, in a story sure to please fans of McKinley’s early works, a tired young woman from a modern Homeland finds her way (via her garden pond) to the desert of Damar’s past. Dickinson’s (Ropemaker, 2001, etc.) tales lean toward the dark, the violent, the malevolent; McKinley’s (Spindle’s End, 2000, etc.) are by and large gentler, emphasizing love, not conflict. Despite thematic differences, it is a remarkably consistent collection, tonally speaking, each tale slowly and completely developing its unique setting, plot, and characters with slow, stately language. This language, though, sometimes gets out of hand, particularly in McKinley’s tales, where commas insert themselves freely into sentences that seem to go on and on, until readers who are not paying attention may find themselves at the end of a sentence of which they have forgotten the beginning. Readers who can stick with it will find themselves rewarded with watery riches, and will look forward hopefully to Earth, Air, and Fire. (Short stories. YA)