Mirror Kingdoms: The Best of Peter S. Beagle

Mirror Kingdoms: The Best of Peter S. Beagle
Peter S. Beagle, 2010

Premise: Collection of short fantasy works by Peter S. Beagle.

Mirror Kingdoms is a collection of short works, but not quite a book of short stories. Many are a little long for that term, and I find that I am not properly appreciative if I think of them as short stories. Most are more like modern fairy tales than anything else.

The writing style is loose and dreamy in some, tight and present in others. I must admit, I didn't feel in the mood to read a whole book of them this week, though that's a fault in me, not in the writing. I'm glad I stuck with it, though, as the stories saved for late in the book are phenomenal.

Let's get the main thing out of the way first: what did I think of "Two Hearts", the "coda" to The Last Unicorn? Mixed, honestly. The tone is fine, the voice is great, but I'm just not sure of the point, either of the story itself or the reason for writing it. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either.

There were certain stories that I really liked. "Salt Wine", about the dangers of taking favors from merpeople, was pretty fantastic. In "El Regalo", a girl has to rescue her brother, trapped in last Thursday. "The Tale of Junko and Sayuri" is a hauntingly evocative story grounded in Japanese myth. "Giant Bones" is one of his more well known short pieces, and its descriptions of giant life are pretty amazing.

My favorites were "The Rock in The Park" and "We Never Talk About My Brother". In the first one, a young boy with a gift for words and his childhood friend with a gift for pictures meet some unusual travelers in a park in the Bronx. The end of that one is absolutely beautiful.  In "We Never Talk About My Brother", Jacob relates the story of his brother the famous anchorman, who has a troubling secret power.

I don't want to say more, because discovering the richness of each world is a large part of the enjoyment of these stories. I didn't enjoy each and every one, but some people can write a whole novel with a less fully imagined world than is implied in most of these stories. Many do.

Most if not all of these stories have been printed before in other volumes, which is good, because Mirror Kingdoms is already out of print.

4 Stars - A Really Good Book


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