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Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits    by Robin McKinley & Peter Dickinson order for
by Robin McKinley
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

Peter Dickinson has been one of my favourite authors for many years. I have equally enjoyed his mysteries and his fantasies, both for adults and younger readers, and even more when these categories somehow got all mixed up together with delightful consequences. More recently, Robin McKinley burst upon my attention with her superb fantasy, The Blue Sword, and I have been careful since then to read everything she has written. I did learn that the two were married, but I did not really expect such enchanted offspring.

In fact, the book contains six longish short stories, three by each of the authors. I was careful not to look at the Contents page, and had an enjoyable time deciding who had written what. (For the record, I was right four times, but couldn't even make a guess for two of them.) Most unusually, the stories are exactly as described - they are all tales of elemental water spirits, and not, as so often happens, odd stories crammed to fit awkwardly into a collection's theme. I will not blunt the reader's enjoyment by describing them except to say that they are all very different and all of a very high standard, as might be expected.

However, two stand out even so. Kraken, by Peter Dickinson, is a superbly judged medley of the tragedy of a pair of human lovers, the heroism of the Seaking's daughter, and the overshadowing menace of the immortal creature of the deep, the Kraken. Definitely not to be missed by the connoisseur. And for those like myself who are fanatical in their love for the land of Daria and the Kingdom of Damar, where Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown are set, the last story, A Pool in the Desert, is a must read. It is set in the Homeland, in the far future of the other novels, in a dingy town where Hetta toils for her family, and dreams of desert sands.

I trust this is only the first of many literary collaborations by this very accomplished pair.

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