||A really good mix of short stories,
obviously lovingly written by everyone involved.
This book must be just the perfect length,
because I enjoyed most of the stories, but was growing tired of short
tales by the end. Still, this book was able to keep me interested, which
is much more than I can say about most short story books these days.
It was not my intention to re-read this
book, since it disappeared soon after I read it the first time. However,
the moment I saw it on a friend's bookshelf, I humbly asked to borrow it
so that I could get a cover scan, having been unable to find one
anywhere. But after scanning it, I flipped through it, and was hooked.
I expected more fantasy-type stories,
with magic and nasty twists, with the hero being fooled and then
becoming a hero again. But the stories rarely had more than one of these
traits, and even though some of them might have taken place in a
medieval time or setting, they were more every-day oriented, with the
magic being easily explained away. Still, most of the characters were
The artwork, one painting for each story,
is outstanding. Each picture is so detailed, so full of imagery from the
stories, and so full of color. They should each be framed!
Isaac Asimov's Prince Delightful and
the Flameless Dragon, which is repeated in his Magic collection, is a
hilarious fairy-tale that makes fun of fairy-tales, mixing in some
science, to boot. This is a story only Asimov could have written, though
it is written in a tongue-and-cheek style that Terry Pratchett brings to
his stories. Both the Prince and the Dragon were touched by a fairy who
always mixes up her spells, giving the dragon foul-smelling but
flameless breath, and the Prince complete awkwardness. When they meet,
they decide to team up, and help a neighboring king conquer his enemy.
The humor is in the way the story is written, especially the way the
sorcerers are ignored for saying strange things like genes, dinosaur,
and gas mask! It must be read to be truly appreciated.
Imaginary Friends, by Terry Brooks, is
much more serious, as a tale of a boy who must deal with learning he has
leukemia. It is a touching tale of battling inner demons, with the elf
Pick showing Jack the beautiful forest, with the bridge troll and the
place where the dragon is imprisoned, when he is young, then asking for
his help after the boy learns about his disease. Jack learns to battle
the dragon, which affects the outcome of his disease, hiding it away in
a deep inner cage. I only wish Jack didn't hit his head both times he
"imagined" Pick, as it makes the magic less real.
The story of Gwyndion and the Dragon
started off interesting, but petered out about halfway through, with an
anti-climactic and much less interesting end. It was almost as if this
story was set in a world we were supposed to know. Still, it was well
written (aside from stumbling over so many difficult names), and kept me
guessing how the evil King was going to conquer Gwyndion's land. I supposed
that his fairy-given "Luck" would fail because his kingdom was no longer poor,
but was rather disappointed that his wife decided to sacrifice herself,
with what seemed like very little motivation.
The Fairy Godmother, by Lester Del
Rey, was a fun tale about
Samantha's growing up, becoming less selfish and more reasonable. This
was one story where I expected a neat twist, like the old man and woman
being some incarnation of the aunt she despised, having her work on the
land to test her, and make her into that "responsible person". Alas, the
story seems less impressive when I find out they were telling the truth.
I liked Sammy's gifts, though, being able to turn invisible and summon
people in dire but selfless emergencies. But the mundane nature of the
old couple made me wonder "so what?"
The tale of Thistledown the unicorn, by
Susan Dexter, was
pretty cool. It was very quiet and unassuming, like the young man Flax.
A wizard, though he didn't know it, Flax takes in the newborn unicorn
after its mother was shot, and his life is changed forever. The story is
really about Flax's gentle manner and lifestyle, and about protecting
his charge when danger comes near. But the unicorn knows that Flax needs
to be trained, and leads him to a wizard in need of an apprentice. The
sub-plot of Duke Lothair and his fiancÚ Lowise was amusing, as the young
girl rarely stopped talking. Flax lets her join his journey when she
runs away, and the unicorn changes Lothair's life when it heals him from
some leaf-beasts. Well written, this tale had the characters at its
center; not much of a plot, but the characters were very interesting and
could be easily related with. Why does the back cover say that Flax
didn't know he had a unicorn, though?
The Old Soul, by Wayland Drew, was one of
the very few stories included that failed to hold my interest. The journey of the
Merchant, Doctor and Architect mostly bored me, in addition to being hit
over the head with a Moral, that organization and technology is BAD,
while nature and wilderness is GOOD. I enjoyed their discussion about
who was more worthy of taking a lone horse to the end of their trip, but
I don't believe either would bow to the architect as being more
important. It sounds more like the author, someone who does not
appreciate sciences. The old woman's tale was just as dull, if not more
so, though I thought I liked the character of Eiver, delivering a
message to the Prince that he has forgotten nature in the big city. The
reasons for the Doctor and Merchant gave for leaving the journey didn't
make sense, either. If the Merchant long ago learned to take no more than
necessary, why did he ever start a mill or mine? Did the Doctor go back
to his mountaintop? Most of all, the story proved its own point, that it
was treacherous to travel that route, and that people never returned!
Changeling, by Barbara Hambly, was a
cautionary tale about taking appearances for granted. I loved the
different forms that the Dragon's children took, each different: toddler
girl, green deer, and sparkling lights. The lights showed transformation
first, and appears to be the least effective disguise! It alerted its
keepers to its true nature, which made the near-sacrifice very painful.
Each was loved regardless of their form, and returned that love by never
returning to rampage that kingdom. Some animals can learn love and
I found The Tinkling of Fairybells, by
Katherine Kurtz, to be the best of all the stories. It was so full of
love, pure love, before becoming so sad I had tears in my eyes. Just
partaking in the love between the Fairy ("she" in the tale) and the
priest Peter, as she discovers him, later introduces herself, sharing
his life with him, was so beautiful. The magic of the light of love,
ah... It is something that really has to be read to understand; the
story is really a character piece, with the interaction between two
worlds as a plot. When Peter is killed in a shipwreck, I was heartbroken
along with "her", as she futilely tried to help him, then hovered over
his grave. But God allowed him to return in the form of an angel, so
that they could blend their light forevermore.
Anne McCaffrey's The Quest of a Sensible
Man was only mildly enjoyable. I liked the mystery of the forest, and
their inability to get through it, for ages and ages. But I didn't find
the characters to be very engaging, and the volume of names, from
servants in the past to the companions, the mares, and the people living
in the castle, was too much! Having them not know what the amulet
looked like, and the speculating that the father didn't really want to
leave, seemed rather silly, but I liked that people who knew nothing of
the curse could pass through, but as soon as they were informed that
they couldn't pass, then they physically couldn't!
The last story, Portrait of a Hero, by
Lawrence Watt-Evans, was very enjoyable. I really enjoyed Wuller's
exploration of the lands around him, discovering what an Inn was, trying
to work for food and shelter (once he even got a warm bed-wink).
As he looked for the woman who could get rid of the dragon that took
over his village, he came across so many things that he didn't
understand, and it was really neat to see everything from his point of
view. Sometimes the dialog and narration was stilted, but that was
simply a minor problem. The people of his village were a simple lot, not
even trying to get rid of the dragon, because they were told by the
oracle that Seldis would do it. The simple poison worked into bags in
the stomach of the sheep that the dragon ate was very effective, and I
felt as Wuller did about the idea to sacrifice Seldis -nobody even asked
if she was a virgin! And maybe the Dragon would know what would happen
to him if fed one, so would refuse to eat her. I would have left the village, as Wuller did, also!
I don't remember which tales I didn't
specifically like the first time I read the book, but apparently I
enjoyed more of them this time. Some were better than others; most were
very simple fairy tales, with simple characters, and a simply plot. The
paintings that accompanied each story were a wonderful idea, as they
accented each perfectly. I am not saying that I will return to short
stories any time soon, but with this kind of quality, I would consider