Book Review: Patricia A. McKillip’s Harrowing the Dragon

Posted May 17, 2011 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Patricia A. McKillip’s Harrowing the Dragon

Harrowing the Dragon


Patricia A. McKillip

fantasy, omnibus that was published by Ace Books on November 7, 2006 and has 308 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Solstice Wood, In the Forests of Serre, The Bards of Bone Plain, Ombria in Shadow, Alphabet of Thorn, Od Magic, Song for the Basilisk, Wonders of the Invisible World, Kingfisher, Winter Rose

An omnibus of fifteen fairy tales given a twist by McKillip.

My Take

In general, I find McKillip’s writing to be lyric poetry. In this group of tales, she seems to be more musical.

The Stories

Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath” was a very frustrating tale of a dragon fighter taking on a dragon whose only fault…so far…is 11 months of winter.

A Matter of Music” was very good and, true to its title, revolves around music. It also brought in a reference to another of McKillip’s stories, “In the Forest of Serre“. It made me think of “pagan” harvest festivals, people’s belief systems, and the power of love whether it be of people or one’s passions.

A Troll and Two Roses” made me think of several fairy tales mingled into one. Snow White and Rose Red and all the tales of bridge trolls. Who knew that a troll could have a heart?

Baba Yaga and the Sorceror’s Son” shows that even Baba Yaga has a sense of humor…and a heart!

Fellowship of the Dragon” is an odd twist on all the fairy tales in which the various heroes, heroines in our case, are distracted by magical tricks and wander off from their intended paths. I did like our winning heroine’s approach when she found her “treasure”…what a comeuppance that was!

Lady of the Skulls” is a fine entrapment allowing self-judgment to punish the lesser. A most surprising ending.

Snow Queen” starts out so sadly and ends so well. A tale that every woman should take to heart and hold a true path.

Ash, Wood, Fire” was nearly incomprehensible. Taking place in a castle kitchen, we observe the frenetic actions as meals are prepared except everyone is addressed as the items they are in charge of: Onion, Fire, Cream, Pastry, Kitchen-Beetle, etc. It does have a lovely incarnation of an ending.

Stranger” is a scam perpetrated by an artist of colors whose visual art is appreciated by a local weaver. She is entranced by the visual feast but appalled at his use of his skills. A most unexpected and lovely ending.

Transmutations” is a curious tale of students and professor as they explore the mysteries of life in a laboratory pursuing the alchemical arts.

Lion and the Lark” is a twist on Grimms’ The Singing, Soaring Lark.

Witches of Junket” is a contemporary setting for a family of witches who must battle an ancient threat.

Star-Crossed” provides an inside look at what “really happened” between Romeo and Juliet.

Voyage into the Heart” a mage uses a young virgin to entice a unicorn to be slain for its horn. The sight of the slaughter causes the mage to reconsider.

Toad” is a more realistic look, from the frog’s perspective, of the character of the princess who kisses the toad. Poor king. Poor toad.

The Cover

I’ve suddenly realized of what McKillip’s covers remind me of those gorgeous, highly-lacquered Russian boxes. They have that same quality of luminous, jeweled depth. Much like her writing. In this case, the cover is of an unearthly white horse posed deep in the forest ridden by a Valkyrie with her cape floating behind her.