Dreams of Distant Shores


Book: Dreams of Distant Shores 

Author: Patricia A. McKillip

Publisher: Tachyon

Pages: 274

Format Read: Paperback

I have read Patricia A. McKillip’s novels before, but “Dreams of the Distant Shores” is the first of her short story collections I’ve read. There are seven stories in this collection, some exclusive to the anthology and others reprints. Also included is a note from the author on writing high fantasy, and an afterword by Peter S. Beagle (who wrote “The Last Unicorn.”)

The stories are of varying length and deal with different themes, but all of them have a thread of fantasy, and mystery, and memorable characters running through them.  I liked all of these tales; I found each of them different, enchanting in their own way, and whimsical. Some of them are arguably more subtle than the others. And of course, the cover is lovely.

‘Weird’ is the first story, where a couple seem to be hiding from something, or someone, in a bathroom. Not that either of them is concerned, despite the unholy noises the creature outside seems to be making. I am a little less sure of this story, not that I didn’t like it, but I am less certain of its ending. Part of its charm, I suppose?

‘Mer’ has at its core a witch. A witch with a goddess inside her head and shapeshifting powers, a witch who climbs a tree and falls asleep – for centuries. And of course there’s a waitress who just happens to resemble a missing wooden mermaid in a sleepy port called Port Dido.

Harry, the young painter of “The Gorgon in the Cupboard,” finds that he has company in the form of an entity. A snarky, loudmouthed, magical entity trapped in his own painting. Harry’s not even sure if the entity is really there, or whether he’s imagining the whole thing. This story was particularly fun to read, and the ‘Gorgon’ with her insights and lack of subtlety manages to turn Harry’s world upside down.

“Which Witch” features a rock band and the rather aptly named ‘Witch Hazel,’ a rather entertaining crow-familiar, and unsurprisingly, witches. This story was different from the rest with its rock music and quirky characters.

“Edith and Harry Go Motoring” follow a lonely pair of friends and a shadowy mystery. “Alien” was probably the most surprising story in this selection for me, with a grandmother who may or may not have seen extraterrestrials. The hint of what lies beyond is strong in both “Edith and Harry Go Motoring” and “Alien” and personally, I found the hints and whispers of what may lie beyond the realm of ordinary existence quite fascinating.

“Something Rich and Strange” is more of a novelette. There are ancient beings from the sea, odd, magical jewelry, and a couple who form the centre of the tale. Themes of conservation and protection of the environment follow this story, and those are woven into the threads of the tale well enough.

“Writing High Fantasy,” a nonfiction piece following the novelette, was an interesting take on the author’s writing process, and of course, the afterword was an interesting tribute.

Overall? I really enjoyed “Dreams of Distant Shores.”


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