Review – Dreams of Distant Shores

Dreams of Distant Shores – Patricia A. McKillip

Tachyon, 2016

What is impossible, really, when stories come floating out of strange magic? A witch misplaces her name and her face, and gives a wooden mermaid an unexpected lease of life. Besieged lovers share a dangerous secret, Medusa reveals her true face, and the sea washes up truths so bitter and beautiful they might wash your heart away.

I am always bewitched by Patricia A. McKillip’s writing. It reads with a glorious poetic elegance, but she has a finely tuned sense of the absurd as well that gives it vibrant life. All except one of the seven stories in this collection were new to me, ranging from the light-hearted Mer and urban fantastical Which Witch to the darkly enigmatic Weird and the eloquently passionate novella Something Rich and Strange. It takes a lot to live up to a title as good as this one, but McKillip does so with style.

Review – Summer Days, Summer Nights

Summer Days, Summer Nights – ed. Stephanie Perkins

Macmillan, 2016

In the long hot stretch of summer, rules start melting in the sun. You might spot a lake monster when you go swimming, reconnect with the secret crush you’re almost (but not quite) over, resort to matchmaking for your oblivious friends, or maybe make plans to save a crumbling carnival. It’s possible time may stop altogether. Love is in the air and so is trouble.

This is the second in a pair of YA short fiction romance anthologies, the first being the winter-themed My True Love Gave To Me. It’s a pretty hardcover, with yellow edging on the pages contrasting against a blue cover, and I’m definitely the kind of reader who appreciates that kind of thing. Summer Days, Summer Nights is split fairly evenly between mainstream fiction and SF/fantasy stories, and while I didn’t find all of the stories very romantic, there’s a good mix of different types of couples, including QUILTBAG protagonists and a story with an autistic boy as one of the lead characters. My favourites include ‘Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail’ by Leigh Bardugo, ‘The End of Love’ by Nina LaCour, ‘A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong’ by Jennifer E. Smith and ‘The Map of Tiny Perfect Things’ by Lev Grossman.

Review No.68 – Tales from the Tower, Volume One: The Wilful Eye

Tales from the Tower, Volume One: The Wilful Eye – Isobelle Carmody and Nan McNab (editors)

Allen & Unwin, 2011

Fairy tales have always held a strange fascination to the storyteller, lingering long after childhood’s end. In this collection six authors find new meanings in the old tales, retold in their full dark glory. A soldier turns his war on the unsuspecting world. A monster lies in wait inside an empty mansion. A lost girl searches an icy urban wasteland. Love faces despair, magic meets betrayal. The dark forest is never so very far away…

I stumbled across this book in the random treasure chest of a library catalogue and could not believe I hadn’t heard of it before. The contributing authors include Margaret Mahy, Margo Lanagan and Carmody herself, with the stories a rich selection ranging between the wry and the gruesome. It is always enjoyable to see familiar fairy tales through the prism of someone else’s eyes and this collection offers some very interesting interpretations. It is the first half in twelve retellings, continuing in Tales from the Tower, Volume Two: The Wicked Wood.