Wonders of the Invisible World: a kelpie, an undine, and 12 dancing princesses

Wonders of the Invisible World: a kelpie, an undine, and 12 dancing princesses 

A time traveler with angel’s wings sent to manipulate the past, a kelpie: part-horse river creature who carries women on its back and drowns them in the deep water, a haunted wood where the young boy in a long-dead family invites a girl to leave with him forever, a will o’ the wisp who pretends to be a boy in the Halloween woods, an ominous twist on the tale of 12 dancing princesses, and a lost undine trapped in a human world—these are just a few of the magical short stories to be found in Wonders of the Invisible World, the latest publishing by renowned fantasy fiction writer Patricia McKillip. McKillip has been transfixing readers with her beautiful, almost poetic analogies, her vivid, detailed scenery descriptions, and her profound character revelations since the 1980s. Nearly anything she writes is bound to capture your attention, but a book of short stories is perfect for someone on the commute to work, a full-time parent who only has time for one cup of coffee before the baby wakes up, anyone wanting to escape reality while waiting at the doctor’s office, or someone who just wants to read a quick story before bed. Wonders of The Invisible World will transport you anytime into McKillip’s worlds of magic, which often appear much like our own.

Recommendations:

Also by Patricia McKillip are over 30 more novels, all well-written and captivating. If a short tale of the ocean and its magical creatures is what you seek, try The Changeling Sea. If a story of a time-traveling wizard and the king that commands him and the young writer they influence, try Alphabet of Thorn. If haunted witches in a forest and a runaway princess, try In the Forests of Serre. If you wish to read about a school of magic, a power-hungry king, and a boy who has learned to listen to the secrets of trees and plants, look up Od Magic.

If you would like to try another author altogether, who also writes about magic and jumping across time, try Fog Magic by Julia L. Sauer or A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. (Both are children/teen fiction, but still a fun foray into fantasy for adults).

If you wish something still fantasy and far more adult, try Demon Lover by Juliet Dark, about a woman named Callie whose house is haunted by an old demon wishing to regain, through love, his once human form, stolen by the Faerie Queen. Callie has an unknown power to unlock the door from our world into Faerie, with the help of her fey and witch friends.

The Recipe:

This recipe was chosen because strawberries were a food mentioned in at least two of the stories (“Knight of the Well” and “The Kelpie”), and apples or cider at pivotal moments in other stories (“Will o’ the Wisp” and “The 12 Dancing Princesses”) as well. Also, strawberries and scones were the main things taken as a snack by Emma on the painting adventure that changed her life, and a shared apple with a powerful witch changed a soldier’s future. Hopefully these scones will add a little magic to your future as well, even if only with a cup of tea and this delightful book.

Apple Cider Scones served with Strawberries infused with Cider

Apple Cider Scones with Cider-infused Strawberries by Sophia of Little Box Brownie

Apple Cider Scones with Cider-infused Strawberries by Sophia of Little Box Brownie

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup of thick cream (heavy whipping)
1/2 cup of apple cider
2 tablespoons milk

Strawberries:

1 cup of cut strawberries
1/3 cup apple cider

Place all the ingredients into a bowl, stir until the ingredients combine. Pour onto a floured surface and knead until a dough forms.
Press out using your fingers (or a rolling pin) until ½ inch thick, then use a cookie cutter and cut out (or cut into squares, then halve to form triangles), place on an oven tray and place in the oven for 25-30mins or until cooked.

Cut the strawberries into pieces. Place in a saucepan with the cider, heat until the strawberries start to break down and the cider reduces.

Serve with whipped cream.

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you think it is possible to eventually create a history of imaginative thought? Can all thoughts be calculated and quantified if all of past history is added to it? Or is imagination limitless to the truly creative?

2. If you had a wizard’s knowledge like Ansley, what’s the first trick you would like to know how to do? (Examples he gave are: hearing what the winds have to say, the language of beetles, how to spin with spin drift, what lies hidden in the deepest ocean depths, how to walk between worlds through trees, invent whirlwinds, make pots and clothes dance, or anything else you can imagine).

3. Do you think it a coincidence that the king of the lake had the same face as Wilding? Or could it have been her subconscious projecting it? Or was all the magic really just a dream, and perhaps Emma merely passed out underwater for a while?

4. If you were Dawn, would you have left with Ridley Chase at the end of the story, or waited a few more years to be with your own family? Would you have waited until Ewan was an adult? Why?

5. Because so many of these stories start off in places like in our world, do they make the child in you imagine magic, or some of McKillip’s fantasy creatures, in this world?

6. Does magic truly exist for those who believe, like Alexa and Jenny? Or can everything be explained away through science and reason, as Alexa’s father believed, that the will o’ the wisp is merely combustion of decayed grass?

7. Did you notice any examples of poetry or beautiful descriptions used by the author? Did any of them ever rhyme? Did any depictions make you pause your reading for a moment to visualize exactly what she was illustrating?

8. Why do you think Eada, the water mage, wanted Garner to find the object that was the source of trouble for the water? Do you think she suspected what was hidden in his heart, that his feelings would lead him to find it? Or was it more about the “object” being linked to Garner? Or both equally?

9. If you never have before, read the Brother’s Grimm version of “The 12 Dancing Princesses” or “The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces.” How does their version compare with this new one? Do you like one better than the other? Why?

10. Do you feel pity for the Undine, or does it seem an appropriate fate for her, considering what she was about to make Mike give up, which her sister’s husbands already had to live like? Or is there a balance neither of them have yet found? Is equality even possible for an undine, or will the scales always be tipped?

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