cover image WATER: Tales of Elemental Spirits

WATER: Tales of Elemental Spirits

Robin McKinley, . . Putnam, $18.99 (266pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23796-6

Each highly respected authors in their own right, husband and wife Dickinson (The Ropemaker) and McKinley (Spindle's End) collaborate for the first time on a collection of enchanting tales linked by an aquatic theme. Infused with selkie legends and Greek and Roman underworld myths, the tales possess a consistently compelling, rhythmic tone, despite the fact that the authors alternate in the tellings. Dickinson's opening "Mermaid Song" sets the tone for a tenuous relationship between those who dwell on sand and in sea; only the landsman who has listened to the stories passed down through generations can accord the sea its proper respect. McKinley's "The Sea-King's Son" builds on the traditional tale of the Sea-King's daughter who falls in love with a musician, but with a satisfying twist. Taken together, the installments also raise some thought-provoking issues. In "Mermaid Song," for instance, Pitiable Nasmith must lie in order to escape her grandfather's abusive home, while Hetta in "A Pool in the Desert" struggles with what constitutes truth. The workings of the Guardians' magic in McKinley's "Water Horse" remains mysterious, and Dickinson never entirely explains the gender-divided mythology in "Sea Serpent" but fans of myths won't mind filling in the gaps. These creative interpretations brim with suspenseful, chilling and wonderfully supernatural scenes, from Iril's daring plan to kill the murderous sea serpent to Hetta's literal leap of faith. Ages 12-up. (June)