Stylistically rooted in fairy tale and mythology, imperceptible landscapes are explored in these opulent stories from a beloved fantasy icon. There are princesses dancing with dead suitors, a knight in love with an official of exotic lineage, and fortune’s fool stealing into the present instead of the future. In one mesmerizing tale, a time-traveling angel is forbidden to intervene in Cotton Mather’s religious ravings, while another narrative finds a wizard seduced in his youth by the Faerie Queen and returning the treasure that is rightfully hers. Bewitching, bittersweet, and deeply intoxicating, this collection draws elements from the fables of history and re-creates them in startlingly magical ways.
I have read Patricia Mckillip’s novels before, I am certain of that but for some reason, I did not remember just how fantastic her world weaving and wordsmithery really are. Wonders of the Invisible World satisfies on so many levels that had I the time, I would have reviewed each story in the anthology because each story deserves careful, individual attention. As it is, unfortunately, I do not have the time so I shall focus on a few favourites.
“Wonders of the Invisible World”
This story is a fantastic juxtaposition of the fantastical and science fiction. While the occasions referenced to in the story have a paranormal aspect, Mckillip gives it a much more benign framework when you realize that the main character is actually a time traveler and that the supernatural instances are carefully choreographed in part due to the new technology of the future. What I loved about this short story is how, even in the limited space present in a short story, Mckillip manages to infuse so much personality in all her characters. I would have happily read an entire book based on this premise and hopefully she will someday return to the world she creates in this story.
McKillip portrays almost perfectly the languorous life of painters set in a time she does not explicitly state but one can infer that this could be during Renaissance or some similar time when art is flourishing. There is a sweetness to this story, a very real sense of danger in the mysterious and very sinister painter who is, despite all his unwelcome attention and unpleasant personality, very talented. Ned and Emma’s romance is so beautifully constructed without ever becoming too mushy, too romantic and melodramatic. And trust me, I am one of the most difficult people to convince where fictional romance is concerned. The paranormal aspects of this story neatly weaves in with the general atmosphere and the tone of the narrative as a whole. It satisfied me despite its shortness.
“Hunter’s Moon” and “Oak Hill”
These two stories are both short but pack a punch by their very pithy nature. None of the words, sentences in these two stories are wasted and it is only at the very end of them that you realize the weight of each sentence.
Perhaps my favourite in the entire collection, this story portrays the brief nature of childhood, the magic that is present even in children who straddle the fence between childhood and adulthood. The story manages to steal magic out of very ordinary circumstances and highlights the plight of women in a past England. It also very briefly, very sweetly shows us a lightning flash of romance. A lovely story that I will return to when I need some magic in my own life.
“Knight of the Well”
This one was delicious as well. It crafted a world where water is worshipped and infused it with life, vibrant characters and a story that could be narrated fully in the length of a short story. I loved this one as well.
This one was pithy, clever and an awesome juxtaposition of magic and the ordinary life.
As you can see by now, I loved all the stories in this collection and if I still have to tell you to try this out, well, you haven’t been reading my review. Honestly, if you like short stories, well, even if you don’t like them usually, give these a try. Patricia Mckillip is a master at what she does. Strongly recommended.