Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia A. McKillip

Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia A. McKillip

Wonders of the Invisible World  
by Patricia A. McKillip
On Sale: Available Now
Fiction \ Fantasy \ Collections & Anthologies
Tachyon Publications 288 pages
Source: Publishers
My Rating: 4 Stars
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Stylistically rooted in fairy tale and mythology, imperceptible landscapes are explored in these opulent stories from a beloved fantasy icon. There are princesses dancing with dead suitors, a knight in love with an official of exotic lineage, and fortune’s fool stealing into the present instead of the future. In one mesmerizing tale, a time-traveling angel is forbidden to intervene in Cotton Mather’s religious ravings, while another narrative finds a wizard seduced in his youth by the Faerie Queen and returning the treasure that is rightfully hers. Bewitching, bittersweet, and deeply intoxicating, this collection draws elements from the fables of history and re-creates them in startlingly magical ways. 

Wonders of the Invisible World is an anthology of sixteen short stories by world fantasy award-winning author Patricia A. McKillip. This collection features a wonderful mix of her work with an introduction by Charles de Lint and a personal essay on what inspires McKillip. Readers will find her signature style as magic, the fey, and fairy tales meander across the pages. 

Wonders of the Invisible World
A researcher from the future travels back in time to colonial New England in the guise of an angel in order to bring back research on Cotton Mather's inspirations. McKillip paints a stark picture of the time and place of the Witch Trials and the frustration of not being able to change history, but rather only to observe.

Out of the Woods
This story has a great mix of the everyday meets magic. A young wife agrees to work for a local scholar studying to be a mage in order to bring in more income. Unappreciated by both her husband and her employer, she is unhappy. Though she works in the mundane world, only she is able to see the odd magical happenings occurring around them. I loved the bits of odd magic and myth found in this short story.

The Kelpie
This had a wonderfully artistic and romantic feel to it. A young female artist desires recognition while fighting off the advances of an unwanted suitor. A sweet romance and first love. This is one of the longest stories in the anthology and I kept waiting for the "Kelpie" moment. I was not disappointed when it finally did arrive.  An enchanted watery realm with its king and a kelpie horse all make an appearance.  

Hunter’s Moon
While visiting their uncle at his hunting cabin, Dawn, and her younger brother ends up lost in the woods, only to find their way home again with the help of a stranger who is not what he seems. An enchanting and haunting tale to ponder. One of my favorites. McKillip brings the life and mysteries that lurk in the woods to life in a vivid picture.

Oak Hill
Oak Hill was the least appealing story in this collection and it may be just for the fact I did not connect to its heroine Maris. A runaway, Maris seeks a mysterious place called Bordertown in order to learn magic. There's a message about beauty vs. inner-beauty present, but the connection was hard to get.

The Fortune-Teller
I really liked the slyness of the lesson presented in this short story. Merle is a pickpocketer who has the philosophy that anything is up for grabs regardless of the consequences nor hardships it may cause others. A dirty street urchin who's mouthy and unapologetic. Merle comes across some gypsy tarot cards that bring about a surprise karmic twist.

Jack O’Lantern
An upcoming wedding, family portraits, and Victorian sensibilities mingle with magic in this story. There's a fun, as well as an odd tone to the story as the mother gives *advice* on what happens behind the closed doors of a newly married couple. I laughed at the pearl, oyster, and rushing water symbolism and loved how McKillip incorporated the pre-Beauty and the Beast story of Cupid and Psyche as well as magical Will o' the Wisp into the story. 

Knight of the Well
Rich world building fills the pages in this story.  Luminum's people honor the very water which surrounds their city. Water sprites and elementals of the water seem to be lurking around each corner. With knights and pageantry, Knight of the Well is infused with magic and when a yearly celebration goes awry, it is up to one disbelieving knight to discover why. 

Naming Day
A young teen is excited to experience Naming Day at the school of Wizardry she attends while a crush on a certain young boy causes her to lose focus on her family leading to a lesson on selfishness. I adored the mom and completely sympathized with her. A favorite in the collection.

A weary wizard seeks desperately to return back to Faerie and right a wrong from long ago. As our wizard weaves his tale to the local townsfolk, the reader is swept once again into McKillip's rich writing and I couldn't help but wonder what lengths would one go to in order to get back to such an enchanted realm. 

The Twelve Dancing Princesses
I couldn't wait to see how McKillip would spin this classic fairy tale and loved how she took familiar elements and gave them just enough twist to make it fresh with a dash of darkness to make it memorable. The soldier returning from war, a wise woman in the forest, worn out satin shoes, and the Twelve Dancing Princesses. One of my favorites. 

This is a lovely tale with a nice twist to it. A young water sprite goes in search of her (first) mortal husband. What she finds is unexpected. With advice from her sisters, a dark and enchanting picture is painted of these watery fey creatures.

Xmas Cruise
A husband gifts his wife with a "Rediscover Gaia" cruise and they travel around Cape Horn and Tierra del Fuego. In once sense it seemed about the couple rediscovering their marriage and then poof, McKillip throws in some vague references and then possibility of cheating enters my mind. The theme and execution felt out of place for this anthology.

A Gift to Be Simple
An odd religious group realizes that they are all growing old and fear the loss of their teachings. A plan of action is made whereas the kind sisters set out to have a child without all the fuss. I enjoyed the beginning, with the vivid contrast of religious beauty and devotion with the practical everyday necessities. But, it seemed to be poking fun a bit - which may be why I enjoyed less.

The Old Woman and the Storm
The writing alone, vivid and lyrical, made me want to enter this world. Gorgeous. This felt very much like a creation myth with a Native American flare to it, though it's vague, it doesn't really matter because the story is thoughtful and beautiful. A favorite.

The Doorkeeper of Khaat
A poet struggles to be authentic, often searching and reading other great works in hopes of inspiration. When his own father becomes ill and is dying, he searches and bargains for "a wish that will open a doorway" to the land of a Khaati. Thoughtful and heartfelt, The Doorkeeper of Khaat made me appreciate what I have.

What Inspires Me: Guest of Honor Speech at WisCon (2004)
A few pages on what inspires McKillip. Down-to-Earth, humorous, and thoughtful - a nice inside look at the author.

In the End
Wonders of the Invisible World touches on surprisingly deeper issues lying hidden among the jewel-like writing, filling readers with a thoughtful and engaging story, while enchanting us at the same time.