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Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  998 Ratings  ·  100 Reviews
From the booker Prize-winning author of Possession comes this richly imaginitive story collection that transports the reader to a world where opposites--passion and loneliness, betrayal and loyalty, fire and ice--clash and converge.

A beautiful ice maiden risks her life when she falls in love with a desert prince, whose passionate touches scorch her delicate skin. A woman f
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Paperback, 240 pages
Published July 11th 2000 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1998)
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Best Fantasy Short Story Collections
52nd out of 418 books — 284 voters
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78th out of 250 books — 121 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,021)
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Deea
Aug 26, 2015 Deea rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Complex, intriguing, charming, but having one great fault: only good and definitely not as brilliant as the other books of stories by Byatt I've read. I've enjoyed the story of the wife who leaves the scene of the death of her husband and the story of the maiden of ice who marries a prince of the desert.
Hugh
Aug 15, 2016 Hugh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, read-2016
Another fine collection of stories, as Byatt's always are. This collection is dominated by the two longer stories Crocodile Tears and Cold - the latter is a fairytale like those in The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye, and Byatt's fairytales match those of Angela Carter. As always there is plenty of erudition and wisdom thrown in along with a little arcane vocabulary. A pleasure to read.
Sarah
Jul 20, 2010 Sarah rated it it was amazing
This is my first Byatt, and it's the kind of writing I absolutely adore. There's something about the fairytale format that always makes me a little giddy-headed, perhaps because it simultaneously sates my craving for fancy and my craving for structure. It's non-reality that isn't altogether nebulous. And, is that not the very essence of art?

I've heard that Byatt's books, including this one, require extensive knowledge of folklore and history, but I didn't find that to be the case. For all I (sur
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Rowena
Apr 22, 2013 Rowena rated it it was amazing
Byatt is an exceptionally creative short story writer. This is my third collection of her short stories and, although not my favourite, it is still definitely worthy of 5 stars. The fairytale feel of the stories was nice, and her descriptions of the simplest of things are unparalleled and very magical to read.
Zanna
Dec 20, 2013 Zanna rated it really liked it
I think this was the first really adult book I read outside the 'classics'. These tales draw on the form and style of fairy tales. They are aesthetic and pared down to survival and sensuous pleasure found in yellow suits and soft bathrobes and copper crocodiles and dancing in the snow and fluted music and blown glass and fish and eggs.

I tend to feel this aestheticism stands against the sense-deadening effects of onslaughts of advertising. Yet in 'Jael' the narrator is a creator of advertising: s
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Danica
Sep 12, 2011 Danica rated it really liked it
I LOVE THIS.

If you guys love me or have even a paltry shred of affection left for me in your hearts, you will read the following excerpt:

"And she appealed to the painter, should Dolores not learn to be content, to be patient? Hot tears sprang in Dolores's eyes. The painter said:

'By no means. It is not a question of accepting our station in the world as men have ordered it, but of learning not to be careful and troubled. Dolores here has her way to that better part, even as I have, and, like mine
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Melanti
Oct 05, 2011 Melanti rated it really liked it
Shelves: anthology, 2011
Elementals explores the ideas of fire and ice in several different ways.

It varies from "Cold", a fairy tale story with literal fire and ice in the form of an ice princess who marries a fire oriented prince, to "Crocodile Tears", a modern story with no magic where the ice manifests as a motif symbolizing guilt and grief.

With such a short collection - just six stories- I was disappointed that there was one that fell completely flat for me ("Baglady"), but as it was very short, just ten pages or so
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Ярослава
Aug 10, 2016 Ярослава rated it it was amazing
Shelves: litfic
Антонія Баєтт - одна з моїх найулюбленіших письменниць, люблю шалено - за прекрасні екфрастичні описи (вона часто пише про художників, історію кольорів, світло: скажімо, в цій збірці одна героїня позує для картини за приготуванням їжі, кришить овочі, "reduced onions to fine specks of translucent light. She felt herself to be a heavy space of unregarded darkness" - "дрібні крихти прозорого світла" це чудовий опис дрібно накришенох цибульки, хіба ні?), за увагу до інтелектуальної біографії героїв, ...more
Cindy
Aug 03, 2010 Cindy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I rarely dislike books this much, and I'm afraid this short story collection has coloured my perspective of Byatt for the future. I'm surprised so many people enjoyed it, but I guess to each his or her own.

This collection starts with what I think is the weakest story of all, Crocodile Tears, a boring 75 page-long story about a woman who escapes her life and ends up in a small town. There really is no plot, and I felt no connection to the main characters; it just drags on and on. Byatt does do s
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Jamie
Jun 21, 2011 Jamie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Update, 2011 reading

Happened to accidentally re-read this one, having been stuck at a coffeeshop for a few hours with a friend who only had this book to spare me. Consumed it incredibly swiftly, much like I had upon my first reading, and remembered why I found this collection of tales (six total) so intriguing, shimmering, and powerful. Each story is organized loosely around extremes of heat and cold; in some cases this is an atmospheric or environmental theme ("Lamia" and "Crocodile Tears"), in
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Scot
May 15, 2010 Scot rated it really liked it
A month or so ago a friend had recommended a book by this author to me, so while I was doing something else last week but realized I was on the appropriate floor of my public library to track down and check out that book, I stopped by its place in the stacks. It was not there, but a whole row of other books by A.S. Byatt were, patiently waiting for someone like me to come along and appreciate them. In truth, I selected this volume because of its size—I could fit it comfortably in the span of my ...more
Dottie
Re-read April 2003.

I think this is my favorite Byatt -- because I love the story Cold -- in spite of being a reluctant fantasy, magical realism and so on reader, I was absolutely bowled over by Cold -- it was like reading all the fairy tales in childhood fairytale books but this was an adult reading a book written for an adult and experiencing a fairytale. It still amazes me that I responded to this story as I did -- and Ire-read it every now and again. It's absolutely lovely. I do like the rest
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Joey-Joey-Jo-Jo
Apr 15, 2010 Joey-Joey-Jo-Jo rated it did not like it
This book was a complete disappointment. It doesn't have an index, the chapter headings are entirely obscure, and I can never find the stat blocs when I try to use this during play. The basic problem is that they devoted far too much space to flavor text, and not nearly enough to the crunchy bits and the supporting infrastructure needed to make the crunchy bits useful. While an original and creative effort, I would not recommend this book to anyone but collectors and completists.
Adam
Each of these stories achieves the psychological richness and tone of The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye (the title story). It's amazing that she came up with so many of these, stories that are far more impressive than the simple fairytales that comprised the bulk of that collection. She has a wonderful way of characterizing without a lot of action or dialogue (which seems like it should be impossible) by showing the sensual world they inhabit, the way they frame things, where they go and what t ...more
Hannah
I cannot emphasize enough how GOOD A. S. Byatt's writing is. It carries you, colors your inner mind, and creates scenes so real--and yet so magical--you'd not believe it.
I'm in love with her writings; thankfully, she has written quite a bit.
C
Mar 17, 2009 C rated it it was amazing
I listened to these on tape and loved them! I'm not always crazy about short stories, but I really like A.S. Byatt and these were very fun/funny/haunting/memorable. I think this is one of the best book of short stories I've every read.
Athene
Feb 03, 2016 Athene rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is adventurous but not exciting. The first story has only traces of mythology and I found myself skimming and wondering what I was missing, the second was a neat creature-feature, the third was an interesting story about an icewoman who fell in love with a glassblowing prince, the fourth a brief incident of a women unable to find her way out of a foreign mall, the fifth was a woman mixing memory and present and scripture, and the fourth was a pleasant close about a young cook learning ...more
Jo
Apr 02, 2016 Jo rated it really liked it
Byatt's stories simmer with a sensuality and passion which, like topiarian trees in a formal garden, are pruned and trained into cultivated shapes whilst retaining the wild scent of the orchard. In "Crocodile Tears" a woman walks away from a personal tragedy, deserting those she loves to try and reconcile herself to a death for which she feels horribly responsible. Thrown together in Nîmes with another exiled mourner, a Norwegian full of northern folktales, she ricochets between a numbed calm an ...more
Palmyrah
Jan 25, 2011 Palmyrah rated it liked it
I've tried A.S. Byatt before, but she didn't take. This short story collection is pretty good, though. 'A Lamia in the Cevennes' and 'Jael' are five-star efforts by any standard. The first is a literary fantasy about artistic obsession and its links to the sexual variety that contains some extraordinarily sensual writing; the second connects the Biblical story of Jael and Sisera with a schoolgirl crime that may or may not have been committed, and shows how, metaphorically speaking, the Devil fin ...more
Katie
Sep 19, 2010 Katie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, short-stories, 1990s
As with most collections of short stories, some of these were better than others. They were well-linked by the theme of isolation and the elemental focus of the stories and I thought the collection was a coherent one. The prose was beautiful, lyrical and evocative and I look forward to reading some of A. S. Byatt’s longer works (I have Possession on my shelf) as I think that this will be even more evident when the author has a bit more breathing space. Although the stories are very well-written, ...more
Lee
Oct 19, 2011 Lee rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Elementals by A.S. Byatt is a collection of stories with fantastical themes. While some of the stories are truly like fairy tales in the dark “Brothers Grimm” sort of way, others are more realistic with the sense of fantasy coming from the imaginations of the characters themselves. Each story is rich in imagery and pathos. In one story, we meet an artist who cannot comprehend a special color of aqua blue; as he spends his days in contemplation to "solve" this color, a mysterious shadow begins to ...more
Bitsy
Mar 30, 2010 Bitsy rated it really liked it
The byline of this book is Stories of Fire and Ice, so all of the stories contained these two elements in one way or another. Several of them read very much like fairy tales in their representations of one or the other of the elements and made for very pleasant and lyrical reading. "A Lamia in the Cevennes" was very artistic, fantastical and eerie while "Jael" managed to appear non-fantastical until the very end which gave you shivers.

My favorite in the collection would have to be "Cold" though.
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Tortla
Sep 22, 2010 Tortla rated it it was amazing
Byatt writes with such poetic frankness, and makes her characters into people with realistically unfolding lives and undefined motives.

Her short stories are satisfying, but in a kind of bittersweet way that echoes reality even when they are fantastic. I can't help feeling like I'm not mature enough for Byatt; her protagonists possess a level of developed...grounded-ness that is still mysteriously alien to me. They don't always resonate with me because I can't quite see myself as "adult" in the
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Kate
"Crocodile Tears" is very sad. Patricia's husband dies suddenly. In shock, she leaves town and runs away, hoping to fall off the map. In Nimes, she meets a man named Nils, a Norwegian, who is also running from grief. The two form an uneasy friendship, in a French city surrounded at every turn by crocodiles in the very architecture.

"A Lamia in the Cevennes" This was a story about a painter and his awesome pool! Which was invaded by a creepy snake. Who turned out to be a woman. Not sure how I feel
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Pt Bunch
Mar 06, 2015 Pt Bunch rated it it was amazing
Ms Byatt is hands down the most fantastic wordsmith in the world. These stories are so exquisit they left me breathless. They are raucus (a djinn who shrinks his male parts last to make himself a little more enticing) and touching (a yin and yang couple who create worlds which allow them to linger together for a few beautiful moments). The stories are crafted perfectly and the language is so beautiful you absolutely must read it to believe it.
Maree Kimberley
Mar 30, 2013 Maree Kimberley rated it it was amazing
This book is the first by A.S. Byatt that I've read and now I'll be searching for more. I loved the stories in this book. For me, the writing in these stories is as close to perfect as writing can get.

The first story in the book is the one that captivated me the most. As a reader and writer I am fascinated by the idea of what happens when someone just walks away from their life. In this case the catalyst is the death of the woman's husband. I adored this story and would place it in the top 3 sh
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Sytske Romijn
Sep 07, 2014 Sytske Romijn rated it it was amazing
It's been quite some time since I read these stories, but the first one stayed with me for a very long time, and it's still there. It's one I will hope to retell to my grandchildren (perhaps in a simplified matter). I don't know why it touched me in such a matter, but sometimes stories create an image so vivid and alive that it almost feels like I watched the movie. What a storyteller!
Chloe
Jan 01, 2012 Chloe rated it liked it
I only read the first short story, "Crocodile Tears", because I was looking for some light bedtime reading, and A.S. Byatt gave me exactly that. The story was captivating enough to keep me reading, but trivial enough to lull me to sleep.

"Crocodile Tears" is the story of Patricia Nimmo, a fiftysomething woman who escapes by chance to Nîmes, France, after her husband dies. There she becomes anonymous and free, but still unable to feel any sort of emotion towards her husband's death (thus the title
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Katewood16
Jan 21, 2016 Katewood16 rated it liked it
Book group preview. Very odd collection that includes fantasy/myth as well as very real and current. Favorite story was the woman who wandered away from her husband who had just died of a heart attack. I suspect I will have greater appreciation of this book when/if it is discussed in book group.
Denise MacFarland
Sep 06, 2015 Denise MacFarland rated it it was amazing
I have to admit that I greatly appreciate Byatt's style and subject matter. With this collection of stories, as with most of her work, I find myself immersed in fascinating and intriguing worlds that I carry around in my mind. Truly lovely.
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A.S. Byatt (Antonia Susan Byatt) is internationally known for her novels and short stories. Her novels include the Booker Prize winner Possession, The Biographer’s Tale and the quartet, The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman, and her highly acclaimed collections of short stories include Sugar and Other Stories, The Matisse Stories, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Ey ...more
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“Ice burns, and it is hard to the warm-skinned to distinguish one
sensation, fire, from the other, frost.”
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“When the morning light came into the room it found them curled together in a nest of red and white sheets. It revealed also marks, all over the pale cool skin: handprints around the narrow waist, sliding impressions from delicate strokes, like weals, raised rosy discs where his lips had rested lightly. He cried out, when he saw her, that he had hurt her. No, she said, she was part icewoman, it was her nature, she had an icewoman's skin that responded to every touch by blossoming red. Sasan still stared, and repeated, I have hurt you. No, no, said Fiammarosa, they are the marks of pleasure, pure pleasure. I shall cover them up, for only we ourselves should see our happiness.

But inside her a little melted pool of water slopped and swayed where she had been solid and shining.”
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