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Elementals: Water (Tales of Elemental Spirits #1)

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  2,576 Ratings  ·  164 Reviews
Seven tales describe magical beings that inhabit our waters. Some are familiar mer-people; some as strange as as a golden eye in a pool at the edge of the Great Desert Kalarsham, where the mad god Geljdreth rules; or the unknowable, immense Kraken, dark beyond the darkness of the deepest ocean, who will one day rise and rule the world.

1 Prologue: The water sprite / Robin
Published 2002 by David Fickling Books
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Six stories by married authors Peter Dickinson and Robin McKinley, to varying degrees themed around the element of water. Overall I liked McKinley's better (no surprise there), but Dickinson's "Kraken" was quite good too, making up for the dullness of his "Sea Serpent". The last three stories were better than the first three.

The final story, "Pool in the Desert," is set tangentially in the world of McKinley's Damar novels. It and Dickinson's first story, "Mermaid Song," both felt as if they woul
Maureen E
by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson

This is the first in a planned series called Elementals, all consisting of short stories by Dickinson and McKinley.* The second, Fire, has just come out.** So, naturally, I decided it was time for a re-read.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. While the opening story, "Mermaid Song" by Dickinson did bother me slightly (it all seemed very expected, somehow--repressive society, child rebelling against said society, etc., etc.), the second story "The Sea King's
Apr 13, 2010 Brad rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, z-2010
A collection of short stories about creatures of the deep. I didn't realize until just before writing this review, however, that the authors are husband and wife--pretty cool. Each contributes three stories, and overall I think I liked Dickinson's better. If I had to rate just the McKinley pieces, I'd probably just give it two stars. Sea Serpent and Kraken were my two favorite stories. I liked it well enough that I'll probably read the next one in the series, which has a theme of fire.

I thought
Jul 31, 2010 Elfear rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, fantasy-scifi, shorts
I couldn't bear to give it any lower than 4. I think it deserves a 3++.

List of stories:

Mermaid Song (Dickinson)
The Sea King's Son (McKinley)
Sea Serpent (Dickinson)
Water Horse (McKinley)
Kraken (Dickinson)
A Pool in the Desert (McKinley)

All the stories were pretty cool. But the last one most of all!

I absolutely fell in love with A Pool in the Desert. My favourite story in this collection, by far. The contrast was spectacular. The writing was masterful. McKinley jolted me out of a grey, tedious, sa
Nov 18, 2012 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves Robin McKinley
Shelves: fantasy, anthology, 2016
Damar! Damar Damar Damar. Damar and a character named Ruth. Damar!

So, yes, this collection had a new Damar story which I loved, but I thought the collection as a whole was kind of erratic, but that is maybe partly due to the fact that I adore Robin McKinley and don't have the same reaction to Peter Dickinson. The three McKinley stories in the collection were my favorite, and I ended up skimming one of Dickinson's (The Sea Serpent) because I couldn't get into it. McKinley simply paints images in
A collection of six stories themed around water, written well but not exactly connecting with me. The Sea King's Son was easily my favorite, with its sweet, earnest romance. I feel very sure that I've read this before elsewhere, but can't think of where. It didn't matter, I still liked reading it. The rest of the stories just weren't for me. But then, I'm not a big fan of Robin McKinley, so it's not really surprising.
Even when I admire Dickinson's stories, I don't love them in the visceral way I love McKinley's, so this collection is a little uneven for me. Of Dickinson's contributions, I like "Kraken" the most; of McKinley's...mmm, hard to say, because I love all three, but maybe "A Pool in the Desert", because it's partly set in Damar.
It's really hard to rate short story collections, because each individual story is different. So rather than my usual rating header, I'm going to break this down by story. There are six stories in this collection, all centered around water (sort of). Three are by Robin McKinley (woo!) and three by her husband, Peter Dickinson (meh). As you can see from the below, I much preferred McKinley's stories. In book order, they all are:

1. Mermaid Song by Peter Dickinson: (3/5) This wasn't a bad story. It
“Water” is another collection of stores, this time by Robin and her husband Peter Dickinson. Each contributed three stories, all based around the element of water. (They’ve also released “Fire”, which will be coming to paperback on 9.7.10; I haven’t read it, but I will.)

In “Mermaid Song” by Peter, Pitiable Nasmith lives with her grandparents on a farm. Before she dies, Pitiabe’s grandmother tells her the story of Charity Goodrich, who came over to the New World and was on the ship that sank befo
May 18, 2011 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, McKinley rant coming on. Holy crap!!! I am SO TIRED of the lily livered female character who is trapped in her life and literally dreams of something better. And WHAT is with her weird obsession with DESERT of all God forsaken things? It's SAND. It's DRY. It's DEADLY. It's NOT an amazing wonderland of romance and mystique.
Whew! Ok, done with my rant. Onto a proper review. My apologies.
This book is a collaboration between McKinley and her husband Peter Dickinson. His stories are much better
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 Althea Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fantasy collection based on the theme of sea magic, from husband & wife Peter Dickinson and Robin McKinley.
I’d say, as far as reading level, this book is probably aimed at young teens, but like classic fairytales, the stories are such as can be enjoyed by all… Young women striving against repressive environments is a recurring theme – hardly a new motif, but it’s generally done effectively. The ending of the last story made me cry!

Mermaid Song – PD
A young girl in a strict, Puritan-type com
Luke Paulsen
Apr 21, 2016 Luke Paulsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've long been a fan of Robin McKinley's novels, so when I learned that she'd teamed up with her husband Peter Dickinson-- also a fantasy writer-- to make a collection of short stories about magical water-related beings, I was sold almost before I picked up the book. It's a good thing I did pick it up, though, because these are fascinating and sometimes startling gems of short fantasy. The two authors play to their differing strengths-- Dickinson is better at intellectual depth, while McKinley i ...more
Feb 17, 2009 Alethea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More Robin McKinley is always a joy, and Peter Dickinson, while not in my top favorites, is a reliably interesting writer. In this book I find that I definitely prefer McKinley's work. "The Sea-King's Son", my least favorite in part because it is a very simple romance, is nevertheless quintessential McKinley. All three of Dickinson's stories are imaginative, well realized, and somehow not quite as engaging as McKinley's, even when I don't like them.

I have great deal of sympathy for McKinley's pr
Very lovely short stories, but which really feel directed to a young reader, perhaps not even YA quite yet. My favorite stories were actually those by Peter Dickinson, particularly the Kraken - loved his take on that story.

Mermaid Song - puritans and mermen, and a little girl who really is Pitiable (but smart and kind). One of my favorites of the anthology.

The Sea Kings Son - very very simple and very McKinley-esque if you know what I mean.

Sea Serpent - prehistoric! Stonehenge getting built (may
Jan 09, 2011 Brittany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yafantasy
I always get confused about what's an anthology and what's not; I'm never sure whether I should expect a collection of stories BY the people on the front cover or merely collected by and edited by them. In this case, for whatever reason, I was expecting water-themed stories simply collected by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson, though I did expect they'd include at least one of their own. I was tickled when the very first story was by them, and then thrilled when it turned out the rest of the s ...more
Gorgeous, gorgeous stories. This book was given to me by my counsellor (ahem, yes, a bit strange, but I believe it was intended as a birthday present) after I mentioned loving mermaid stories. This book is completely wonderful, and with different ideas than just people with fishy tails. There are fish with human ears and merfolk who look just like people but with gills, and even kraken and newts.

Normally I'd review each short story separately, but honestly, I loved all of these. There was only
Crystal Carroll
A series of short stories centered around water spirits.

Really an incredible range of stories for such a narrow and yet liquid wide subject.

“Mermaid’s Song” the story of a young girl named Piteable in an alternate reality Puritan community. The power of women’s stories and of mermaids singing.

“The Sea King’s Son” a love story taking place in between. The paths between breathing air and water.

“Sea Serpent” the passing of the matrilineal world. Caves and serpents passing away to stonyhenges.

Feb 04, 2012 Widdershins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another book that hovers between 4 and 5 stars for me. I love RMcK and enjoyed each of the 3 stories she contributed very much. She is just a master of creating fantastic settings and grounding them enough to make them believable. I liked the merman story and loved both the mountain apprentice and the desert pond stories. I find myself more and more impressed by her the more I read other fantasy writers. What was more of a surprise to me was that I also quite enjoyed her husband's stories - well ...more
Jun 11, 2008 Catherine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson is a compilation of short stories. There are 6 total, 3 by each. I really enjoyed all of them, except for The Sea Serpent. I just couldn't get into it. It almost seemed to technical. There was a lot of waves and riding the waves and tides and stuff and it would get in depth about how to do this and that with the raft and waves and I had a hard time imagining it and it wasn't a really happy story either. Not that a story has ...more
May 19, 2007 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fantasy readers and those who like quirky, mythy stories
Shelves: finished
I've been a Robin McKinley fan for a number of years. Her re-telling of common fairty tales are some of the most creative and moving I've ever read. In Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits, Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson contribute short stories about Water creatures. They are delightfully short and wonderfully satisfying, just the right length for bedtime stories.
You will read of
*mermaids and mermen and their interactions with "air people."
*the Kraken, the monster from the fathomless deep an
I was excited to get this book because I love McKinley's writing so much. But I found that I was more disappointed than entertained. The first two storied "Mermaid Song" and "The Sea-King's Son" were by far my favorite. Both McKinley and Dickinson were able to transport me into the simplicity of the worlds they had created for these two short stories. However the following shorts were not nearly as enthralling. "Sea Serpent" and "Water Horse" seemed to drag on endlessly. The little character dev ...more
I don't often read short stories - i prefer the character development of a long one, or even a series. but i finished this short story collection by robin mckinley and her husband Peter dickinson a little over a week ago. they're all fantasy stories having to do with water, and for the most part, i enjoyed them. they have a simplicity to them, like a fairy tale. there was one that i really didnt like, about bringing rocks down a river or something. i started that and got so bored i just skipped ...more
Sep 10, 2011 Miriam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very enjoyable read! I don't usually get interested in short stories, but short fiction by these two authors are generally quite good, and this book was no exception. My favorite stories were McKinley's "Water Horse" and "A Pool in the Desert." I loved the fact that the latter story, which closes the collection, includes the Homeland and Damar of McKinley's novels The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword. :) It made me very very happy. I wonder if she's written other short stories ab ...more
This six-story anthology focuses mainly on waterways, water creatures (such as mer-folk), and the people who interact with them. But the last story was different. Remember The Blue Sword? Did you dream of finding your own way to Damar, and having a hill pony and a wild life of formality and feudalism all your own? Well, in "A Pool in the Desert," Hetta starts dreaming her way out of the drudgery of her life, and finds out that maybe, with hard work and hard belief, she could win the dream as rea ...more
Each story was wonderful and easy to read. The only one that I did have a bit difficulty finishing was Sea Serpent, but every other story was so good. Each had their own little twists and little flavors that popped into my mind while I was reading it, most of which I also put with my "continuous updates".

Water Horse - confusing, but got better, petrichor and pine
Kraken - intriguing, pink pearls and carbonated water
Sea Serpent was a bit weird. I'm not quite sure what story it was supposed to tell
Betsy Cornwell
May 05, 2010 Betsy Cornwell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Water, McKinley and her husband, Peter Dickinson, a notable fantasy writer himself, each contributed three short stories. I’m currently obsessed with water-based fantasy–I’ve mentioned my YA selkie novel here before–and Water was an inspiring, fascinating read. They’ve also collaborated on another book in the series called Fire, and I can only hope that Earth and Air are coming along soon. All the stories are wonderful in different ways, but my favorites were McKinley’s “The Sea-King’s Son” a ...more
A collection of stories around the theme of water written by a husband-and-wife team. I liked some of the stories better than others, which makes a little more sense when I realized that each author wrote three of the books rather than them all being co-written - I'm a big fan of McKinely's and I liked her three, plus the Mermaid Song the best. Because they were about a young woman coming into her power, like McKinley's stores often are.

Mermaid Song (Dickinson)
The Sea King's Son (McKinley)
Sea Se
Elizabeth Hunter
I just read, well, re-read this, I think. I bought it recently and read it, not finding any of the stories familiar--and you'd really think I would have remembered the one set in the same world as The Blue Sword--but when I went to shelve it, there was already a copy on the shelf.

I enjoyed the stories here very much and the theme of water woven through them made a nice connection. I do have to wonder about the continuing theme of daughters whose relationships with their families range from unde
Jun 06, 2011 mirba rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I've only read "a pool in the desert". Wonderful short sweet story, I read it all in less than an hour. The writing is definitely the best of Robin, without the long, boring and mostly useless digressions of her longer books. I love her characters, it's really easy for me to fit into them and travel with them around her worlds.

This book should maybe be attached to the Damar set, since the characters lives in that world.

what i don't really understand is the title. I doesn't fit really well into
Curiously uneven. Dickinson and McKinley are both guilty of very weak stories (the endless and heavy-handed "Sea Serpent" and the pointless and vaguely silly "The Sea-King's Son"), but also manage to produce excellent tales (the dark "Mermaid's Song" and the far-worldly "Water Horse"). They would have been better-served by an editor not involved in their marriage, I think. By rights, I should give this collection three-and-half stars, but it ends with a wonderful story in my beloved Damar ("A Po ...more
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What's The Name o...: SOLVED. Fantasy Anthology (one with a merman) [s] 7 28 Apr 07, 2014 03:54PM  
should i read this 6 16 Apr 25, 2012 07:34AM  
  • Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • Harrowing the Dragon
  • Earth and Air (Tales of Elemental Spirits #3)
  • Faery
  • A Wolf at the Door: And Other Retold Fairy Tales
  • The Fair Folk
  • Book of Enchantments
  • Wizards: Magical Tales From the Masters of Modern Fantasy
  • Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories
  • Secret Sacrament (Secret Sacrament, #1)
  • Ascension (Water, #1)
  • Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand
  • Sirena
Born in her mother's hometown of Warren, Ohio, Robin McKinley grew up an only child with a father in the United States Navy. She moved around frequently as a child and read copiously; she credits this background with the inspiration for her stories.

Her passion for reading was one of the most constant things in her childhood, so she began to remember events, places, and time periods by what books
More about Robin McKinley...

Other Books in the Series

Tales of Elemental Spirits (3 books)
  • Fire (Tales of Elemental Spirits, #2)
  • Earth and Air (Tales of Elemental Spirits #3)

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