Book Review - Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits

Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson

Star Rating: 4/5
Number of pages: 304
Release date: October 21, 2004
Series: n/a
Genre: Fantasy, Teen
Buy the book: Amazon

Synopsis: This is a collection of short stories written by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson.  Each one centers around water in some way, though not in all the ways one might expect.  There are mer-people and deserts and magic and deities.  Each tale is unique and stands alone, save for the very last one, which seems to be a shoot-off of Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown.

Review: This was the first time I’ve ever really read a short story collection, so it was a new and interesting experience for me.  As I mentioned in the description, each story is unique and (from what I can tell) takes place in an entirely different universe from the last.  Going through each story was a little bit of a roller coaster, because one would leave me feeling really satisfied, and the next I wasn’t so happy with, but then I loved the one after that!  Whew!  I need to lie down.  And there’s a really cool but simple artistic thing done at the beginning of each tale that I thought was a neat detail.

This was just a lovely, quick way of indicating to the reader which author—Robin McKinley or Peter Dickinson—had penned the story that followed.  Overall, the writing was beautiful.  Both writing styles are very similar.  I don’t know if that was intentional or not, but it did add a nice flow to the book on the whole.  And I am absolutely in love with Robin McKinley’s writing.  She’s been my favorite author for a long time now.  Specifically, I didn’t care for Sea Serpent.  I didn’t like the main god-priest character very much, and I liked the fact that he won in the end even less.  On the flip side of that, I really liked The Sea-King’s Son.  If you’re looking for a straight-up fairytale love story, that’s your ticket.  I appreciated that the protagonists’ relationship develops without physical contact for a long time and just focused on talking and sharing and getting to know one another first.  They’re both very different, but they admire their differences and love one another for the people they are.  Seriously, such a good love story.  As much as I liked The Sea-King’s Son, I absolutely adored The Water Horse!  If you liked Uprooted by Naomi Novik (which is another fantastic book you should definitely read), allow me to unabashedly pull you towards McKinley's The Water Horse and place it in your hands. It's beautiful and sweet, and there's a strong thread of self-empowerment and community running through it.

I really enjoyed the experience of reading through this entire book, though. Each story is really different, and they're all incredibly well done. Now go read The Water Horse and Uprooted. :-)

Recommend?:  Definitely!  It’s a really different and interesting experience to read a collection of short stories instead of one big one, and I think this one was really enjoyable.