Short works

Books : reviews

Peter Dickinson.
The Ropemaker.
Macmillan. 2001

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 22 June 2011

Tilja lives an idyllic life in the Valley, which has known peace for 18 generations, guarded to the north by a glacier, and to the south by a magic forest. But the magic is dying, and soon the horsemen from the north and the Empire's army from the south will ravage their land again. So Tilja and her grandmother, and Tahl and his grandfather, from the two families who have guarded the magic all this time, set forth on a quest to find the magician who helped their people all those generations ago. They are shadowed by a strange character who calls himself the Ropemaker: is he a friend, or their worst enemy? And why is Tilja's complete lack of magic so important?

This is a good tale, with a great sense of pace as the foursome travel through the enormous Empire on their quest. (At times, for some reason, I was reminded of the feel of certain areas of Barsoom.) The quest isn't to easy, for the most part, and it's not just a succession of plot coupons to gather. I enjoyed reading it, but I felt the ending was somewhat weak. A quest to restore the status quo in the Valley, yet precipitating earth shattering changes in the Empire, seems to lack a sense of proportion.

Robin McKinley, Peter Dickinson, eds.
Putnam. 2002

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 9 November 2005

Six delightful fantasy tales from husband and wife authors Dickinson and McKinley. I've been a fan of McKinley for ages: her simple, dreamy prose evokes a wonderful feeling of character and place, and many of her heroines are the kind of down to earth sensible sorts one would like as a big sister, as well as being heroic champions. And Dickinson's style here, I discover, is similar. The blurb on the back cover states "They plan to write three other books in the Elementals sequence" -- I certainly hope so.


Peter Dickinson. Mermaid Song. 2002
Pitiable Nasmith learned to sing the mermaid's song from her grandmother, never realising she would one day need it.
Robin McKinley. The Sea-King's Son. 2002
Jenny, fleeing a disasterous encounter with her faithless fiance, unwittingly trips the curse that the sea-king laid on her village generations ago.
Peter Dickinson. Sea Serpent. 2002
How Iril battled the giant sea serpent to transport the great standing stones to a new place.
Robin McKinley. Water Horse. 2002
Tamia is stunned to be chosen as an apprentice by one of the Guardians, and is called one to use her new magic before she is fully trained.
Peter Dickinson. Kraken. 2002
Two human lovers fleeing pirates are rescued from the depths by a mermaid. But they have disturbed the Kraken, who demands their return.
Robin McKinley. A Pool in the Desert. 2002
A story of Damar. Hetta has realistic dreams of a strange desert land. When she researches it, she discovers it actually exists, and plans to travel there. But then she discovers that her dreams are of a past time in the land.

Robin McKinley, Peter Dickinson, eds.
Ace. 2009

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 19 December 2010

Five more delightful elemental fantasy tales from husband and wife authors Dickinson and McKinley, here on the theme of fire. The stories of Phoenix and First Flight are great; Hellhound is good. I'm looking forward to the remaining tales of Earth and Air: I hope it won't take another seven years for each of these to appear!


Peter Dickinson. Phoenix. 2009
The Phoenix reappears, in an old English woodland, looked after through the trials of the 20th century by unlikely acolytes. But the phoenix needs sunshine, and the acolytes won't live forever.
Robin McKinley. Hellhound. 2009
A riding stables assistant gets a new dog that is rather more than it seems. Then a haunted graveyard becomes active.
Peter Dickinson. Fireworm. 2009
An Ice Age tale of dreamwalking to remove the terror of the fireworm.
Peter Dickinson. Salamander Man. 2009
A young slave boy is sold to a magician to undo a great evil. (I felt this was the weakest story: a big gob of infodumping in the middle made it feel more like the outline for a novel than a story in its own right.)
Robin McKinley. First Flight. 2009
Why has the Academy decreed that an infirm dragon should participate in First Flight? And why does the wizard Ralas think that the young Eled and his silly foogit pet can help? (An interesting world where being a Healer is a despised occupation.)