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Stylistically rooted in fairy tale and mythology, imperceptible landscapes are explored in these opulent stories from a beloved fantasy icon. There are princesses dancing with dead suitors, a knight in love with an official of exotic lineage, and fortune’s fool stealing into the present instead of the future. In one mesmerizing tale, a time-traveling angel is forbidden to intervene in Cotton Mather’s religious ravings, while another narrative finds a wizard seduced in his youth by the Faerie Queen and returning ...
Stylistically rooted in fairy tale and mythology, imperceptible landscapes are explored in these opulent stories from a beloved fantasy icon. There are princesses dancing with dead suitors, a knight in love with an official of exotic lineage, and fortune’s fool stealing into the present instead of the future. In one mesmerizing tale, a time-traveling angel is forbidden to intervene in Cotton Mather’s religious ravings, while another narrative finds a wizard seduced in his youth by the Faerie Queen and returning the treasure that is rightfully hers. Bewitching, bittersweet, and deeply intoxicating, this collection draws elements from the fables of history and re-creates them in startlingly magical ways.
The year 2013 marks the fortieth anniversary of the publication of Patricia McKillip's first novel. And while she has turned out a large number of award-winning books since then, an incredible and ever-burgeoning moonfleet of assured and distinctive fantasies, she's had only one prior short-story collection, Harrowing the Dragon, from 2005. So the arrival of another such volume, relatively soon after its predecessor, is an occasion to be marked with many celebrations. The lively and enchanting stories in Wonders of the Invisible World certainly deserve all the accolades I can summon.
McKillip's creations can be grouped into several different modes, each of which presents unique pleasures. First come stories set in recognizable, consensus-reality milieus, where the fantastical is something of an intrusion or manifestation of grace. The opening, titular story, a rare dystopian science fiction outing, falls glancingly into that bucket, although the technological apparatus is anomalous in her oeuvre. Next up is "The Kelpie," which concerns a group of Victorian or Edwardian bohemians whose obsessions with the stranger fringes of art lead to a dire encounter for one woman. A brother and sister encounter woodland guardians while visiting an uncle in "Hunter's Moon." A runaway teen finds her dreamed-of magical home in "Oak Hill." Art features again in "Jack O'Lantern," where an impending marriage is to be commemorated by a painting whose uncanny subject becomes all too real. Finally, "Naming Day" is a Harry Potter pastiche, while "Xmas Cruise" finds eerie doings aboard a "Rediscover Gaia" tourist expedition.
Most in line with her novels are those stories that occupy Tolkien-level "subcreations," worlds with independent existences from ours. "Out of the Woods" concerns the discontents of a village housewife who goes to work for a fledgling magician. In an urban setting, "The Fortune-Teller" charts a female pickpocket's epiphany. The longest and most complex tale in this category is "Knight of the Well," almost Wodehousian or Topperesque in its depiction of water sprites and the humans who attend them. And a magician makes the mistake of stealing a trinket from the Queen of Faerie in "Byndley."
Lastly are a few stories that most resemble fables or fairy tales, such as "The Twelve Dancing Princess" and "The Old Woman and the Storm."
This spectrum of narratives allows McKillip a real chance to stretch. She can evoke the eldritch melancholy of Yeats and Dunsany ("Out of the Woods"); the humor of E. Nesbit ("Knight of the Well"); or the layered magic realism of John Crowley ("The Kelpie"). Her prose is always restrained and subtle, allowing evocative metaphors to flash intermittently, like patches of sunlight in the forest. McKillip employs restraint and delicacy rather than melodrama, imparting greater resonance and power to these concise yet deep fantasies than is contained in any average trilogy.
Author of several acclaimed novels and story collections, including Fractal Paisleys, Little Doors, and Neutrino Drag, Paul Di Filippo was nominated for a Sturgeon Award, a Hugo Award, and a World Fantasy Award — all in a single year. William Gibson has called his work "spooky, haunting, and hilarious." His reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, Science Fiction Weekly, Asimov's Magazine, andThe San Francisco Chronicle.
Reviewer: Paul Di Filippo
Posted October 22, 2012
Posted October 18, 2012
This isn’t the sort of book I would pick up in my own short-sightedness; it’s also the sort of magical realism I truly enjoy. It’s the magic burbling up from the timeless wells deep under the earth. It’s the magic just below the surface of a painting or a pool. It’s the unseen magic of the ordinary that is more believable than the scientific explanation of a phenomenon. It’s the ancient magic of youth. It’s the magic of creation and curses. It’s the magic just beyond our view, and I’m glad to have caught a glimpse of it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.