Book review

Elementals: Water by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson (2002)

Six short stories, with a common theme. Magic. The old kind of magic, like mermaids and watchers in the deep. But these are the old kind of stories too, stories about fairies written for everyone, children and adults alike.

It takes a lot of skill to write a really gripping short story. There isn't much time to make the introductions and get the characters involved in their particular drama. The six stories in this book are all beautifully put together, so nail-bitingly full of suspense that I found myself sneaking a look at the last page of one of them, just to allay the worst of my fears. And although these stories are written, three by Peter Dickinson and three by Robin McKinley, I have to say, I was hard-pressed to spot the difference, so focused are they on their common theme.

Perhaps my favourite is the story woven round the historical truth that some of the stones of Stonehenge came from Wales and must have been floated across the Severn estuary, somehow. Here is a compelling mix of primitive man and primitive magic:

This night, as he travelled with the surging tide in his dream and set his dream raft upon it, he sensed something else close by, a great mass that was neither raft nor water, but moved easily in the current, of its own will, as a bird does in the wind. Many, many years earlier, a whale had stranded in a lagoon below the village after a wild high tide, and when it had died there had been prodigious feasting. Never had any man seen so great a beast. Could this be another such? It seemed yet larger. Though he had merely sensed it, and in a dream only, Iril knew it was there.

Want to know what it really was? It was an awesome opponent. Read it, and see for yourself. I think you'll find yourself on the edge of your seat.

What can I read next?

Peter Dickinson has written many books for children. If you enjoy the story I have just mentioned, woven around the stones of Stonehenge, then I think you will love this one:

Or this one, with lots of magic:

Perhaps better known in America, Robin McKinley has also written other books for children. You might like to look at this one:

  • The Hero and the Crown

Do you like strong, old magic? If you do, you could have a look at this rather creepy story by Susan Price:

You might also be interested to look at this extraordinary story by Sally Prue:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

Elementals: Water features in these lists: