PrintE-mail Written by Ian White

Two lovers are imprisoned in a bathroom, and as the woman tells the man increasingly strange tales about her life, something ghastly pounds on the walls and door, hungry to get inside… a witch finds herself imprisoned inside the body of a wooden mermaid, and then the mermaid comes to life… an artist, desperate to find a Muse, paints a beautiful mouth that promptly begins to speak to him and tells him she is a Gorgon… a witch struggles to understand her new familiar, and her familiar struggles to warn the witch about a nasty impending danger… some alien abductions are not all they seem… and when her boyfriend is seduced by the goddess of the sea, a young woman must risk her soul to venture beneath the waves and rescue him…

These (and more) are the stories included in Dreams of Distant Shores, a beautiful collection of new writing from award-winning fantasy author Patricia A. McKillip. Although she is still probably best known for her Riddle-Master trilogy, McKillip has been a fantasy-writing tour de force for more than forty years, and whether you are new to her work or a long-time devotee, it will be impossible not to be enchanted by the offerings in this volume. McKillip has that rare gift – she not only knows how to tell a wonderful story and, within just a few brief sentences, make you immediately comfortable with her characters and their universe, she also knows how to keep the reader on their toes and throw in some surprises you will never see coming. But, better than any of that, she writes like a dream in the kind of lyrical, stream-of-consciousness style, that lures you in and won’t let go, making you look at the world you thought you knew in fresh new ways that don’t seem possible (after you’ve read Something Rich and Strange, you’ll never see a trip to the beach in quite the same way ever again.)

Funny, thrilling, revelatory and heartbreaking, there isn’t one weak story in this selection, although if we were forced to choose our favourites they would be The Gorgon in the Cupboard, Which Witch and Something Rich and Strange, which is more a novella than a short story. But hold on, Mer is fantastic and what about Edith and Henry Go Motoring… and you can’t forget Alien!? You see what we mean? And, at the back of the book, McKillip shares some of her thoughts about writing high fantasy, which is a great bonus (although way too brief!) Absolutely spellbinding. It has been a very long time since we read a gathering of short stories as perfect and beguiling as these.


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