Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Harrowing the Dragon” as Want to Read:
Harrowing the Dragon
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Harrowing the Dragon

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,652 ratings  ·  91 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 t ...more
Paperback, 308 pages
Published November 7th 2006 by Ace Books (first published November 1st 2005)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,652 ratings  ·  91 reviews

Sort order
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Mar 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Harrowing the Dragon is a lyrically written, fantastical collection of fantasy short stories by Patricia McKillip, one of my favorite authors. Not every story in it was a winner for me, but there are some real gems here.

I'm just going to do some drive-by shootings of ratings and my opinions on the fifteen stories in this collection:

"The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath": 3.5 stars. Bothering a dragon can backfire on you. Who knew? It's a moody and atmospheric story, but the ending felt a
As you might expect from Patricia McKillip, this is a lovely collection — some of the stories are just beautiful, and her writing always is. ‘The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath’ is a strong point, as you’d expect from the fact that the collection is named after it, and I enjoyed ‘A Matter of Music’, ‘The Stranger’ and ‘Lady of the Skulls’, too.

The lighter, more humorous ones like ‘A Troll and Two Roses’ and ‘Baba Yaga and the Sorcerer’s Son’ are still well written, but the tone doesn’t w
A lovely retelling of the Brother Grimms' "The Singing, Springing Lark," that stays quite close to the original, nearly point-by-point, but with McKillip's distinctive storytelling style and lovely prose. The Ending is a bit abrupt, but otherwise it's much more enjoyable than the original, which's never been a favourite of mine as that tale type goes.
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
May 16, 2011 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 12, 2014 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: **
Diana Green
Jan 24, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Reading Mckillip's books has always been hit or miss for me. When she is good, she is truly brilliant, but sometimes I find her plots and characters too thin, lost in a stream of poetic language that fails to engage me. This mixed response was true of of my reading Harrowing the Dragon, a collection of her short fiction.

While the writing itself is lovely, at times the dreamlike imagery feels too flimsy to carry a story. As a reader I need more grounding, something to sink my teeth into. A prime
J.Aleksandr Wootton
Aug 28, 2012 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
Oct 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: who like Mckillips dreamly style and who would like to read her but havn't
One of my favorites together with Gordon in a cupboard :)
"It's the Lady," they murmured, hushed.
"Lady of the Skulls."
"Does she have hair? I wonder."
"She's old as the tower. She must be a skull."
"She's beautiful," the man of Stoney Head said shortly. "They always are, the ones who lure, the ones
who guard, the ones who give death."
"Is it her tower?" the one of Carnelaine asked. "Or is she trapped?"
"What's the difference? When the spell is gone, so will she be. She's nothing real, just a piece of t
Jul 05, 2007 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
Theo Logos
I read over half of these stories before giving up on this collection. I don't intend to come back to it.
McKillip's Riddle Master trilogy is a sentimental favorite of mine, but I have searched in vain to find another of her works that interests me equally. This short story collection looked promising, but try as I might, I couldn't labor through it. It's best stories are thick with atmosphere, mood, and scenery, but perilously thin in any characters that are much more than cyphers. Almost all a
Cathy Jung
May 12, 2016 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.
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Reading Harrowing the Dragon is like taking a look in an artist's studio: it's rewarding, it's surprising, and you're going to see some shit that makes you just go, "whaaat".

This is not one of McKillip's better collections -- it's occasionally obscure and sometimes the prose goes very purple. Some of those stories felt like experimental ideas. If this is your first time reading McKillip, just jump right to the newer collections.

It is still a McKillip book, so it's full of inventive ideas rendere
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I skipped a few and didn't care for a couple (transmutations + Ash, wood, fire) but I really loved a few of these stories: the Lion and the Lark was outstanding as was A Matter of Music. I liked A Troll and Two Roses, the Baba Yaga story, Lady of the Skulls and the Fellowship of the Dragon too.
Katie Daniels
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
The title story of this collection is my favorite. The Stranger was my second favorite. This was my first time encountering anything by McKillip that was more strange than wonderful. The Toad, for example, was weird and kind of moralistic. But it's McKillip. So obviously I loved it.
Oct 04, 2017 rated it liked it
As much as I intensely love Patricia McKillip's work, her short stories tend to be pretty hit or miss for me. Of these stories, I particularly enjoyed A Troll and Two Roses, Lady of the Skulls, The Lion and the Lark and The Witches of Junket.
Just as good the second, or third, time through.
Paola (A Novel Idea)
Mar 16, 2013 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
Apr 08, 2014 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.
Mary Catelli
An exquisite retelling of The Singing, Springing Lark.

Read it in Harrowing the Dragon

Merged review:

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 P
Katy Wilmotte
Jul 03, 2013 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
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
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 desp ...more
Apr 09, 2012 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
Feb 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, fairy-tales, fantasy
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
Jul 17, 2011 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 va ...more
Maureen E
Sep 29, 2008 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
Mar 25, 2012 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.
Sep 26, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009, 7, fantasy, ebooks
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.
Brittany E
Jun 15, 2012 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?!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Waters Luminous and Deep
  • Instead of Three Wishes
  • Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • Imaginary Lands
  • The Dragon Book: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy
  • Wings of Fire
  • The Beastly Bride: Tales of the Animal People
  • The Fair Folk
  • Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories
  • The Fate of Mice
  • Fast Ships, Black Sails
  • Red as Blood, or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer
  • A Feast of Sorrows
  • Clockwork Phoenix: Tales of Beauty and Strangeness
  • Somewhere Beneath Those Waves
  • Swan's Braid and Other Tales of Terizan
  • Faery
  • To Weave a Web of Magic (Samaria Chronological Order #3.5)
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.

According to Fantasy Book
“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
“He gave a good yell, for Baba Yaga at her best caused strong windows to crack and fall out of their frames."
From "Baba Yaga and the Sorcerer's son”
More quotes…