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Harrowing the Dragon

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,384 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
A fantasist without equal, Patricia A. McKillip has created worlds of intricate beauty and unforgettably nuanced characters. For 25 years, she's drawn readers into her spell, spinning modern-day fables with a grace rarely seen.Now she presents a book of previously uncollected short stories, full of beautiful dragons, rueful princesses, and handsome bards, and written in th ...more
Paperback, 308 pages
Published November 7th 2006 by Ace (first published 2005)
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Best Fantasy Short Story Collections
79th out of 418 books — 281 voters
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Collections of Short Stories
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,717)
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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Apr 09, 2015 Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-shorts, fantasy
I've been reading two very different fantasy short story collections, this more lyrically written, fantastical one by Patricia McKillip, one of my favorite authors, and The Very Best of Kate Elliott, a darker, more challenging collection. So I'm going to do some drive-by shooting of ratings and opinions on the fifteen stories in this collection, so this review doesn't take all night to write:

"The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath": 3.5 stars. Bothering dragons can backfire. Who knew? Moody
There are fifteen stories here, from 1982's "The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath" to 1999's "Toad", and the quality is, as one would expect from McKillip, very high. For me, standouts were the title story, of a young man who returns to a island of perpetual ice to seek a sleeping dragon and of the young woman who tries to stop him; "The Lark and the Lion", a fairy tale with overtones of "Beauty and the Beast", "Psyche and Eros", and "East of the Sun, West of the Moon"; "A Matter of Music" ...more
Kathy Davie
Mar 19, 2016 Kathy Davie rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
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 Fo
Oct 01, 2007 Wealhtheow rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
A collection of fantasy short stories. "Harrowing the Dragon" is a dreamy story about a young man who seeks to free his town from eternal winter. But perhaps the town does not wish to be free. Probably the weakest story. "A Matter of Music" feels like a novel crammed into a short story. A young musician gets involved in a generations-long conflict that is mirrored in the conflict between her friend and his half-blood wife. I think my favorite is "A Troll and Two Roses," in which a lazy troll gro ...more
Cathy Jung
May 24, 2016 Cathy Jung rated it really liked it
This book is a collection of short stories. Patricia McKillip seems to have no end of wonderful ideas for stories, most filled with magic. Very much liked this book. Can't wait to try another.
Apr 08, 2014 Lark rated it liked it
This collection of short stories was just beautiful.
McKillip is an artist with words, the way she can describe the worlds and weave magic into every single story.

I must say, there are some stories that are a lot stronger than others. I particularly fell in love with the first two: "The Harrowing of the Dragon" and "A Matter of Music". Oh but "The Fellowship of the Dragon" was lovely too - and "The Stranger" was just heart-wrenching.
Ah, I should probably stop before I list most of the stories.
Paola (A Novel Idea)
Mar 16, 2013 Paola (A Novel Idea) rated it really liked it
Originally posted at A Novel Idea Reviews

Rating: 4/5

In this collection of short stories, taken from Patricia A. McKillip’s 25 years as an award winning fiction/fantasy writer, the hero is never simply a hero and magic is woven into the very air you breathe. From the very first story, down to the last, McKillip treats her reader to a different perspective and new dimensions to even the most familiar tale. She has a prose style of writing that is beautiful, epic, and enchanting; I know I’m always
J. Aleksandr Wootton
Aug 28, 2012 J. Aleksandr Wootton rated it really liked it
It has been some few years since I read anything by Patricia McKillip; I was unsatisfied by her Riddlemaster trilogy, although I liked its first installment pretty well. I tend not to enjoy stories of the general formula: "hero steadily becomes more powerful until practically invincible, yet remains uncorrupted by said power due to his/her humble, kindhearted, and/or underdog upbringing, thus becoming able to defeat the tale's one-dimensional, nigh-omnipotent villain and stop his/her world-endin ...more
Katy Wilmotte
Jan 05, 2014 Katy Wilmotte rated it really liked it
This is a collection of fantasy tales and the reading of them feels like something like a fantasy in itself. I felt as though I was an onlooker gawking at some woman sitting on the floor of a strange world working her craft- the weaving of words. Whether or not I liked the end result, she would continue her work and leave me to go about my business.
That being said, these were very good stories. McKillip has a way with words that can only be described as weaving. These stories, though often abru
Feb 27, 2008 Josie rated it liked it
I feel that this book wasn't worth the 6.50 I paid for it, which was disappointing. Some of the stories were definitely better than others. The Lion and the Lark - the story I bought the book for - luckily turned out to be my favourite. Other enjoyable reads included: A Troll and Two Roses (so cute!), The Fellowship of the Dragon (interesting, but it felt like it had been cut off too soon), Lady of the Skulls (I guessed what "the most precious thing in the tower" was by the second page but despi ...more
Oct 06, 2008 Tortla rated it really liked it
One of the blurbs on the back of this book said that "Of all the fantasy writers still alive, Patricia McKillip comes the closest for me to capturing the real flavor of fairy tales." There's very little I have to add to that statement to express the pure awesome that is much of this book (or rather this collection of short stories) except maybe that she tends to be vague and inconclusive, and I've noticed a feministy vibe in the stories that definitely isn't traditionally fairy-tale-esque (but w ...more
Oct 27, 2014 Aelvana rated it did not like it
I don't think I like her short stories much. I could either see exactly where everything was going to go, or it devolved into a rather disappointing literary ending that only makes sense if you want to analyze the story on multiple levels. The vast majority are love stories. Perhaps that's what taints my opinion, but they all felt like the same sort of love story. In any case, her novels are much better. Not Recommended.
Mar 08, 2016 Annie rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, fantasy, fairy-tales
A collection of excellent short stories by McKillip. Most are inspired by fairy tales, my favorite being "The Snow Queen." There's also a story about a policeman who investigates the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, that McKillip wrote for an anthology of Shakespeare mysteries.

The best story was the titular "Harrowing the Dragon," about a miner who gets mixed up with a dragon harrower. Not a slayer, a harrower kind of annoys a dragon until it flies away. The harrower in this story wants to drive away
Apr 24, 2012 Liz rated it really liked it
This is a collection of 15 short stories/fairy tales written by Patricia A. McKillip. A couple of the stories dealt with dragons, princes/princesses, love stories, etc. I did enjoy some of the tales more so than others. I really liked the ones that were background or added information to more well-known stories. For instance, "Star-Crossed" explored the day after finding Romeo and Juliet in the vault and followed the lead "investigator" tasked with finding out what happened. I also really liked ...more
Mary Catelli
A collection of short stories. Arranged chronologically, which was, perhaps, not wise because some of the earlier ones are weak.

We have a charming mundane version of The Snow Queen. A retelling of The Singing, Springing Lark -- not Beauty and the Beast, whatever the blurb says. A comic little tale about a prince, a princess, a rose, and a troll. The unraveling of the mystery of Romeo, Juliet, and Paris's deaths by the watchman told to do it. A mediation by the Frog Prince (who was actually a toa
Oct 19, 2014 Shay rated it it was ok
Average rating: 2.3
Harrowing the Dragon: ***
A Matter of Music: ****
A Troll and Two Roses: ***
Baba Yaga and the Sorceror's Son: **
Fellowship of the Dragon: ****
Lady of the Skulls: ***
Snow Queen: **
Ash, Wood, Fire: *
Stranger: *
Transmutations: *
Lion and the Lark: ****
Witches of Junket: *
Star-Crossed: **
Voyage into the Heart: **
Toad: **
Maureen E
I had read this one at some point in the past. I remember enjoying it quite a lot. This time I had a somewhat mixed reaction; some stories I really enjoyed and some I was not so fond of.
Ones I enjoyed:
* “Baba Yaga and the Sorcerer’s Son”. With the interweaving of Russian folklore and original story, this one hit the right balance for me.
* “Lady of the Skulls”. A tantalizing story, with rich imagery.
* “The Lion and the Lark”. Probably my favorite of the whole bunch. It wove several fairy tale mot
Maureen E
Aug 03, 2010 Maureen E rated it really liked it
I had read this one at some point in the past. I remember enjoying it quite a lot. This time I had a somewhat mixed reaction; some stories I really enjoyed and some I was not so fond of.
Ones I enjoyed:
* “Baba Yaga and the Sorcerer’s Son”. With the interweaving of Russian folklore and original story, this one hit the right balance for me.
* “Lady of the Skulls”. A tantalizing story, with rich imagery.
* “The Lion and the Lark”. Probably my favorite of the whole bunch. It wove several fairy tale mot
Apr 28, 2014 Kristin rated it really liked it
A very good collection of short stories. I really enjoyed the range of stories, from retellings of classic fairytales, stand alone stories, and especially Romeo and Juliet from the point of view of the prince's investigator.
Jul 17, 2011 Hilary rated it really liked it
A collection of short stories from one of my favourite authors, this brings together fiction from anthologies spanning twenty five years of writing. It's not surprising, given this, that the quality is a little uneven but, actually, it's less so than you might imagine. It ranges from the epic through the humorous to the poignant and, it has to be admitted, the pointless (I didn't have a lot of use for "A Matter of Music" or "The Witches of Junket"). Perhaps the best of the collection are the var ...more
Jun 04, 2016 Simona rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very different flavour and atmosphere than all other fantasy books, never stretching into the absurd but always ethereal.
Jan 03, 2015 Debi rated it really liked it
awesome stories. reread The Forgotten Beasts of Eld and this in two days. I just adore her writing.
Raquel Evans
May 25, 2016 Raquel Evans rated it liked it
It's so difficult to review a collection of short stories. Some were charming, some confusing, some simply strange or disturbing. Overall, there are only a couple of stories that I would really want to read again, but I did like those quite a bit.
Oct 12, 2012 Nighteye rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: who like Mckillips dreamly style and who would like to read her but havn't
A good collection of her short stories (15 st), if you like her other books you'll like this one too... it's some few just weird storys like "Ash, Snow and Fire" that I didn't understand at all and some lovely stories in "Mckillip-style" like "A matter of Music", "A Troll and two Roses" and the one that I liked the most: "Lady of the Skulls" but the most are really good stories, not excellent dreamly "Mckillip-style" but good stories!

Recommended to Mckillip-loves and the ones who would like to r
Elias Raven
Loved the book!
Mar 25, 2012 Tracy rated it really liked it
A beautiful, imaginative and lyrical collection of short stories by a master of modern fairy tales. McKillip's prose is always like poetry, with visual details easily summoned in the mind, humorous dialogue to enjoy, and of course, characters that range from sturdy and sweet to ethereal and mysterious. What I like best about this collection is the inspiration drawn from real fairy tales and stories written by other authors. To tease out those connections was very entertaining.
Oct 05, 2009 Kerry rated it liked it
Shelves: ebooks, fantasy, 2009, 7
I usually love McKillip, but a lot of these stories failed to completely satisfy. I think a lot of the problem is that the endings tended to feel weak to me; the stories built beautifully, the writing was lovely and then they just kind of ended. My favourites were "The Stranger" and "The Lion and the Lark" and I think part of that is because the endings were stronger. But I'm left with the feeling that McKillip writes better at the longer length than the shorter one.
"The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath"

"A Matter of Music"

"A Troll and Two Roses"

"Baba Yaga and the Sorcerer's Son"

"The Fellowship of the Dragon"

"Lady of the Skulls"

"The Snow Queen"

"Ash, Wood, Fire"

"The Stranger"


"The Lion and the Lark"

"The Witches of Junket"


"Voyage into the Heart"

Jennifer Heise
Sep 09, 2015 Jennifer Heise rated it really liked it
Being confined to the short-story genre controls McKillip's later tendency to recursive plots, while showcasing her writing. The title story, Harrowing the Dragon, retains its poignancy, and some of the others are just as pointed. The final meditation, on the story of the Frog Prince and the disturbing parts of it, resembles a cross between Vivian Vande Velde's musings on storytelling and the cyclical writing of Diana Wynne Jones' Fire and Hemlock.
Brittany E
Jun 15, 2012 Brittany E rated it it was ok
Patricia McKillip is one of my favorite fantasy authors! I'm talking like top 5, maybe even top 3. This collection had a couple of gems, and while it was interesting to see McKillip's themes developing in these chronologically-ordered tales, there were many stories that left me feeling meh. Especially the last one, which was Romeo and Juliet-themed. Note to the editor: why did you finish on such a weak note?!
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Patricia Anne McKillip is an American author of fantasy and science fiction novels, distinguished by lyrical, delicate prose and careful attention to detail and characterization. She is a past winner of the World Fantasy Award and Locus Award, and she lives in Oregon. Most of her recent novels have cover paintings by Kinuko Y. Craft. She is married to David Lunde, a poet.

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“The young gentlemen who came calling seemed especially puzzling. They sat in their velvet shirts and their leather boots, nibbling burnt cakes and praising Diamond's mind, and all the while their eyes said other things. Now, their eyes said. Now. Then: Patience, patience. 'You are flowers,' their mouths said, 'You are jewels, you are golden dreams.' Their eyes said: I eat flowers, I burn with dreams, I have a tower without a door in my heart, and I will keep you there... 11 likes
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