beguiling chocolates and unraveling undines

…as beguiling as the finest chocolate and as subtly intoxicating as the rarest wine.

Or so says Publishers Weekly of Patricia McKillip’s new collection, Wonders of the Invisible World.

I must (mostly) disagree*. I just didn’t find it as wondrous as everyone else did.

Yes, many of these stories are beautiful, beguiling, maybe even wondrous. But they are also delicate, to the point of breakage. Sometimes because of borderlands, boundaries close to fracturing that give the stories a trembling power. Two worlds spilling into each other. But sometimes the delicacy is brittle, a weak thinness, often because of characters so without character they become more invisible than the supposedly invisible worlds they inhabit. Which is funny, because I took the ‘wonders’ of these invisible worlds to be the creatures living there. How wondrous is something without potency? Worldbuilding is fun, but unless your character eats my heart out, I’m not there.

Here (being there) be kelpies, undines, horned gods and fae on motorcycles. There were clever twists–man snaring undine, a woman who escapes her kelpie-captor. But some fell short: the undine in ‘Undine’ drips occasional hints of her self, but more often than not, she just feels like a land-stranded water creature slowly losing her sense of purpose. So perhaps it makes sense that she feels diluted, like an archetype that’s lost its way (as is the case with a number of other characters throughout the collection). But her plight would have felt more painful to me had she been an individual first and an undine second. It’s not that I needed her to feel humane–just alive, even when she’s estranged.

I like raw, dark things; Wonders of the Invisible World wasn’t quite feral enough for me. But I’m not looking for something perfect–just good. And, despite its flaws, this collection was good. A little heavy on your not-at-all rare and rather un-intoxicating pale waif-girls (though often with a quirky strength, which I can appreciate), but the abrupt, not-a-moment-too-soon endings were lovely. Kept the worlds invisible.

***

*I just wanted to say that this…thing is my first actual book review. I’m not asking for slack-cutting. Give me shiit–lots of it. It’s a good way to learn. I just want people to know that I know how frenetic and full of piss this post mostly is. Writing helps me sort out the things in my head. It’s a mess in here.
………………………………………………….

Books read, 2013:

Prince of Thorns
Wonders of the Invisible World
2312 (review-ish thing coming soon)

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6 thoughts on “beguiling chocolates and unraveling undines

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