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Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits

( 13 )


Master storytellers Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson, the team behind Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits, collaborate again to create five captivating tales incorporating the element of fire.

In McKinley's 'First Flight,' a boy and his pet foogit unexpectedly take a dangerous ride on a dragon, and her 'Hellhound' stars a mysterious dog as a key player in an eerie graveyard showdown. Dickinson introduces a young man who must defeat the creature threatening his clan in ...

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Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits

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Master storytellers Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson, the team behind Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits, collaborate again to create five captivating tales incorporating the element of fire.

In McKinley's 'First Flight,' a boy and his pet foogit unexpectedly take a dangerous ride on a dragon, and her 'Hellhound' stars a mysterious dog as a key player in an eerie graveyard showdown. Dickinson introduces a young man who must defeat the creature threatening his clan in 'Fireworm,' a slave who saves his village with a fiery magic spell in 'Salamander Man,' and a girl whose new friend, the guardian of a mystical bird, is much older than he appears in 'Phoenix.'

With time periods ranging from prehistoric to present day, and settings as varied as a graveyard, a medieval marketplace and a dragon academy, these stories are sure to intrigue and delight the authors? longtime fans and newcomers alike.

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Editorial Reviews

ickinson's stories are told with a storyteller's cadence while McKinley's are modern and humorous, but all five are masterful in character, setting, and plot.
Horn Book
The two writers' talents are well matched, creating a volume that's even in tone and quality while introducing novelty with every story opening.
VOYA - Jonatha Bayse
What comes to mind when you think of fire? Death, destruction, chaos? Or do you picture mythical creatures—dragons, the phoenix, or a fireworm? Fire can destroy, but it also can cleanse; it can foreshadow a rebirth. The five short stories that comprise this book discuss these things and so much more. A young girl witnesses the rebirth of a phoenix; a hell hound and his owner drive away a group of evil spirits; and a boy discovers his true nature with the help of an elderly dragon. These are stories of creatures that live and die by fire, tales of hope and acceptance that span the ages, from the present to the distant past. They are stories that will stay with readers long after they have the read the final sentence. Dickinson and McKinley are known for their powerful stories, and this one does not disappoint. These tales are steeped in mythology and folklore, and fantasy lovers will appreciate the attention that was given to this anthology. Dickinson and McKinley appear to be making their way through the four elements. Water Tales debuted the series (Puffin, 2002/VOYA June 2002), so one expects two more installments to follow. Public and school libraries should definitely consider adding this anthology to their collections. Reviewer: Jonatha Bayse
Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
This is a collection of five short stories, ranging in length from approximately forty pages to a novella-length 100 pages. Each tale deals with creatures of fiery origin, both creative and destructive. A young girl befriends the guardian of a phoenix, another young woman rescues a "hellhound" from the pound with surprising results, a tribal outcast enters a dreamworld to defeat a fireworm, a slave boy is chosen to avenge fiery magic salamanders, and an apprentice healer takes on the awesome task of helping a queenly, wounded dragon re-enter Firespace. The middle selection, "Fireworm," felt a bit slow compared to the pace of action in the other works, but everybody is bound to find one or more stories and characters to their liking; the voice of the young healer in "First Flight" is especially appealing. These short stories might well serve as accessible and illustrative examples for comparison of literary elements. The theme of coming into one's own strengths is recurrent in several selections and could provide a great discussion starter around personal responsibility. Authors McKinley and Dickinson will both be familiar to readers of young adult fantasy as they have separately published numerous successful full-length works, as well as a previous joint collection of stories focused on water. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—In this companion to Water (Putnam, 2002), McKinley and Dickinson explore the range of their storytelling abilities. The settings of these five tales range from ancient to modern, but they are all united by encounters with magical creatures with an affinity for fire. In "Phoenix," Ellie's love for forests leads her to Dave and Welly, caretakers of the ancient Phoenix, displaced from its Egyptian home to damp, chilly Britain. "Hellhound" features animal-loving Miri, whose choice of a red-eyed shelter dog proves providential when she must face a malevolent spirit. In "Fireworm," Tandin spirit-walks to defeat the fireworm that threatens his clan, though in doing so he develops empathy for the creature and its mate and distances himself from his people. "Salamander Man" finds orphaned Tib caught up in a bewildering chain of events, which results in him taking the form of a flaming giant to free the salamanders and rid his city of corrupt magicians. "First Flight," the longest piece, deals with Ern, who helps a dragon with a missing eye find its way back into the Flame Space, which dragons use to travel quickly through time and space. All of these individuals learn something about themselves in their encounters with the fire beasts, and all are the better for it in the end. This collection of beautifully crafted tales will find a warm welcome from fans of either author, as well as from fantasy readers in general.—Misti Tidman, Boyd County Public Library, Ashland, KY
Kirkus Reviews
Five tales of fiery beasts shimmer in an uneven fantasy collection by the noted husband-and-wife team. The three Dickinson stories-especially "Phoenix," in which a girl who loves forests discovers an ancient gamekeeper's secret, and "Salamander Man," in which a slave is chosen from birth to fulfill a magical duty-seem less self-sustained narratives than world-building sketches or conceptual explorations. Only "Fireworm," a dreamlike, elegiac legend about an Ice Age tribe threatened by an igneous monster, contains any character development or plot arc. In contrast, the two McKinley tales charm with intriguing, likable characters and hopeful themes. In "Hellhound," a young woman who dreams of unicorns adopts a fiery-eyed dog, with mysterious, terrifying and oddly touching results. The irresistible novella "First Flight," by far the standout contribution, introduces a shy, clumsy youth with a knack for healing who finds himself saddled with the impossible challenge of helping a crippled dragon to fly. McKinley's fans can only hope that she will return to this world in a future novel. (Fantasy. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399252891
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/29/2009
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,084,610
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 1020L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Robin McKinley has won various awards and citations for her writing, including the Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown and a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword. Her other books include Sunshine; the New York Times bestseller Spindle's End; two novel-length retellings of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Beauty and Rose Daughter; and a retelling of the Robin Hood legend, The Outlaws of Sherwood. She lives with her husband, the English writer Peter Dickinson.

In 1927, Peter Dickinson was born in Africa, within earshot of Victoria Falls. When he was seven, his family moved to England, where he graduated from Eton and later Cambridge. After working on the editorial staff of the humor magazine Punch for seventeen years, Peter finally started on his career as a writer, which he knew he was meant for since he was five years old.

His first book was published in 1968, and since then he has written almost fifty novels, for adults and young readers. His children's books have won great acclaim here as well as in Great Britain, where he has received both the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Award.

Peter lives in Hampshire, England, with his wife, Newbery Medalist Robin McKinley.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 15 of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great fantasy novellas

    "Phoenix" by Peter Dickinson. In Britain elderly caretakers Dave and Ellie begin to care for the ancient Egyptian Phoenix, who struggles with the change in climate; the pair is rewarded for their kindness in an unexpected way.---------------

    "Hellhound" by Robin McKinley. Miri rescues the red-eyed dog from a shelter; not anticipating her kindness will be reciprocated when her canine stands at her side during a confrontation with an evil spirit in a graveyard.---

    "Fireworm" Peter Dickinson. The fireworm threatens the Home Cave of the dwelling clan. Tandin challenges the beast on the spirit plain, but is stunned to realize the enemy has a mate that it protects from the cave-dwellers.----------

    "Salamander Man" by Peter Dickinson. Tib the orphan is sold to a mage, which leads to his turning into a blazing giant freeing the salamanders and the city residents from the abusive magicians. ---------

    "First Flight" by Robin McKinley. Ern prefers to hide in the shadows as he is the subject of ridicule when he is out in the open. His extroverted brother Dag comes home fuming because an injured dragon is assigned to a task that the beast cannot accomplish, yet encouraged by a wizard Ern enables the beast to enter Flame Space.-----------

    The sequel to Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits contains five fine fiery fantasy fables that young high school students will enjoy.---------

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 18, 2010

    Really enjoyed these short stories

    I must first specify: I read this as an e-book from my library's Overdrive system, so I can't attest to the quality of the B&N download. However, I really enjoyed all the short stories in this book. I am a big Robin McKinley fan, so I admit those were my favorites, but these were all great reads. It was nice to start a story before going to sleep and be able to finish and be okay with turning out the light. (not going: but?? what happens in the next chapter???) I especially enjoyed the humor in the last story - including regular everyday experiences of life in a world inhabited by dragons and magicians. Several of the comments got me laughing. :-)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Solid, if not Exceptional YA Fantasy

    This is a fairly strong young adult fantasy collection. Even though none of the stories is perfect, each one is engagingly written and features a different creature of fire.

    The first, by Peter Dickinson and about the phoenix, is marred by sudden shifts in perspective that feel too rough for the gentleness of the story; however, it features some of the most beautiful imagery of the collection and is one of the more unique premises.

    The second, by Robin McKinley and about a hellhound, is very much for animal lovers (which I am) and may be slow through the first five or so pages if you aren't interested in horses, dogs, cats, birds, and reptiles. After that (or if you don't mind that) however, it features the best pacing through its midsection, setting up a fairly large cast of characters for a short story and building a well-realized world with perhaps the best sense of jeopardy. The climax felt a little too easy, unfortunately, but the story as a whole may have been my favorite.

    The third, again by Peter Dickinson and about the fireworm, was the most peculiar. It started very badly, with Dickinson's fictional Native American tribe feeling about as authentic as Disney's in Brother Bear. It was, however, only uphill from there, and the climax was incredibly moving, and caused me to feel angry in the best way. Its denoument again felt a bit easy, but the story was worth it nonetheless.

    The fourth, the last by Peter Dickinson and about the salamander, was the only total miss of the collection. It started out very strong, but the instant its main character (a young slave boy named Tib in a pseudo-Middle Eastern setting) became emotionally removed from his actions I did as well.

    The last story, by Robin McKinley and about the dragon, was the most well-rounded but unfortunately also the one with nothing about it that really stood out. It was reminiscent of her novel Dragonhaven in its male first-person narrator and semi-stream of consciousness style, but this narrator is far less self-absorbed than Jake was, making him likable even in his total denseness about his world. The world was interesting, if not quite believable (there has never to my knowledge been a culture that despises healers -- it's just not realistic, because people everywhere will get sick and they can't work if they're sick), the pacing was steady and the ending just right for the story.

    All in all, while nothing in the collection is earth-shattering in any way, it is a pleasant read and suitable for late elementary school children and up.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 6, 2012

    Magic Creatures.

    On the summer of 1990, Ellie and her family were having a picnic near their country house. As always, she was oddly fascinated by the woods. She wanted to look further, so she went by the surroundings of a fence that separated a conservation area. There she met Dave, a strange looking boy. Later he introduced her Welly, a kind old woman who offered her a close friendship. Ellie spent joyful times along Dave and Welly every weekend. She helped them to do a census in the woods, of each living thing such as plants, trees and animals.
    By the time noticed a strange behavior of this partner. Dave told her the truth, at least about him. He really was a 190 years old man, but after his encounter with a magical creature, the Phoenix, his age was going backwards. Each year he was getting younger.
    The Phoenix was a mythical bird given to the Egyptians by their Sun god Ra. Its magnificent death and rebirth was within the fire. To survive, the Phoenix needed the sun-light and a nest made into a stake. Its food consisted in branches, leaves and small adders. Ellie was later honored to meet Sonny, the name that Dave gave to its flame glistening friend.
    Introducing “The Phoenix”, one of the fantasy stories written by Peter Dickinson, who has a richly detailed events and settings. Is a magical tale that will entertain and get the reader’s excitement. Recommended especially to the ones attracted by the Egyptian mythology and its enchanting tales.

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  • Posted March 2, 2011


    i read my library's version and the punctuation was distracting. i had a hard time getting into Dickinson's stories and didn't finish all of them. McKinley's however were excellent and everything I've come to expect from her. Her style is beautiful and as magical as her worlds.

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