Review: Dreams of Distant Shores by Patricia A. McKillip

Dreams of Distant Shores by Patricia A. McKillip

Title: Dreams of Distant Shores
Author: Patricia A. McKillip
Genre: Fantasy, Short Story
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Tachyon Publications (June 2016)

Featuring three brand-new stories and an original introduction by Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn.

Bestselling author Patricia A. McKillip (The Riddle-Master of Hed) is one of the most lyrical writers gracing the fantasy genre. With the debut of her newest work, Dreams of Distant Shores is a true ode to her many talents. Within these pages you will find a youthful artist possessed by both his painting and his muse and seductive travelers from the sea enrapturing distant lovers. The statue of a mermaid comes suddenly to life, and two friends are transfixed by a haunted estate.

Fans of McKillip’s ethereal fiction will find much to delight them; those lucky enough to be discovering her work will find much to enchant them.

(blurb from here)

Rating: **** (4 stars)

DREAMS OF DISTANT SHORES by Patricia A. McKillip is a collection of seven short stories. All seven of the stories have a fantastical element to them, but some have more of a horror of science fiction twist. None of the stories are connected, and they all vary in length from quite short to fairly long.

DREAMS OF DISTANT SHORES was my introduction to the writing of Patricia A. McKillip. McKillip has published numerous books including The Riddle Master Trilogy, and more recently Kingfisher. I only heard about this short story collection because I read and reviewed another book published by Tachyon Publications and they suggested that I might enjoy this one. I am actually really glad that I had the opportunity to read this collection, as on the whole I thought DREAMS OF DISTANT SHORES contained some interesting and well-thought stories that asked some interesting questions. It was a nice collection to dip into and was an enjoyable read.

Weird is the first story in the collection; it is also the shortest at about eleven pages. Obviously I’m not going to go into too much detail about this – or any of the other stories in the collection – because of spoilers, but I thought the concept of the story was interesting. It was a nice quick read, and I’ll be honest it wasn’t quite what I was expecting but I did enjoy it.

Mer is the second story in this collection, and with twenty-four pages is double the length of the previous story. In this one McKillip also told a story I wasn’t really expecting – which seems to be the theme of this collection. I really liked the main character in this one, she seemed quite enigmatic. There is an almost fairy tale like tone to the narrative which I enjoyed.

The Gorgon in the Cupboard is the third story in the collection, and I think perhaps my favourite, it is about seventy-four pages. I liked that this one has two main characters and that we get to see events from both their points of view. I also think it made some interesting comments about how people see things, and what we can miss by not paying attention. I really enjoyed the story and I thought the characters were beautifully written – I especially enjoyed the Gorgon from the title.

Which Witch is the fourth story in the collection, and also probably my least favourite, and is about twenty pages. This story has more of an urban fantasy feel than the rest of the collection. I really enjoyed how McKillip played with the idea of familiars and a witch’s relationship with them.

Edith and Henry go Motoring is the fifth story in the collection and is sixteen pages long. To be honest I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this story. There’s an almost horror story-like tone to the narrative, and it feels quite spooky.

Alien is the sixth story and is fifteen pages long. The title kind of gives it away, but there is definitely a science fiction tone to this short story – although there’s an element of fantasy to it too. I think the story was cleverly crafted, and it asked some interesting questions but I wasn’t a big fan of the ending.

The seventh and final short story in the collection is Something Rich and Strange; it is also the longest story in the collection at around one hundred and thirty-five pages. The story is complex and the narrative is split between the two main characters. Despite its length, I found this to be a reasonably quick read. I liked the fact that the story was split into parts, as this allowed me to take breaks if I wanted to. McKillip created a really interesting story, and I liked the fact that she drew on Greek (I think) mythology but added her own twist.

After the final story there are two final items. First is an explanation by McKillip on how she writes fantasy and deals with the tropes, which I found quite interesting. It’s super short – only six pages – but she does touch on some things that might be good to consider if you’re planning on writing a fantasy book. The final item is an afterword by Peter S. Beagle, who is probably best known for his novel The Last Unicorn.

Overall I really enjoyed DREAMS OF DISTANT SHORES and think fantasy fans will enjoy it. I can’t say how it compares to other works by McKillips as this is the only work by her I’ve read, but I can say that it has made me want to explore her previous books and maybe give one of her series a try. If you are a fan of short stories, like fantasy and science fiction and are okay with horror elements then you should definitely give this book a try.

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