Contains 2 stories, "The Throme of the Erril of Sherril" and "The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath". Some may classify this as a children's book, but hidden beneath these magical worlds lies a much darker, adult theme. Once again, Mckillips perfectionist's use of symbols and metaphore depicts the struggles of man against his ancient enemy, himself. All the while, the reader is transported in worlds of utmost beauty and realism that I could smell the wood fires and taste the wormspoor deep in the caverns of snowy Hoarsbreath.
Both stories possess similar themes. In the first, Magnus Thrall, "the dark king of Everywhere" is a bitter, dissatisfied man because he does not own the one thing he wants--the haunting, beautiful Throme written by the Erril of Sherril--and in his dissatisfaction he allows no happiness to those around him, not his daughter Damsen, not his favored Cnite Caerles who loves Damsen. When he sends Caerles on a quest to bring him back the mythical Throme, it is a quest doomed to failure--and even if it succeeds, will Magnus Thrall prosper from it? The second story takes place on a frozen island known as Hoarsbreath, where gold is mined deep in the icy heart of the mountain. When Peka Krao, a miner's daughter, discovers Ryd Yarrow the Dragon-Harrower in her mountain, she also learns that he plans to root out the dragon that coils sleeping around Hoarsbreath. To do so would be to destroy all that Hoarsbreath is--dark, cold, secret, grudging with its gold and stark in its beauty--but who will be hurt more if Ryd succeeds?
These are not easy questions to answer, and Patricia McKillip presents them honestly. Of course, with the honesty she also offers a wealth of sumptuous, vivid language, rich imagery, humor, and everything else you might expect in a good story. Your expectations will not be disappointed here.
Two short but beautiful fairy tales in one volume.
The first is traditional in feel - a young man is in love with the princess, but before he will give his daughter in marriage, the jealous and possessive king sends him on a hopeless quest to find the Throme - a poem of legendary beauty that everyone knows is just that - only a legend.
Simple, but heavy on metaphor (and moral), the tale is perfectly structured, and wonderful to read.
Definitely comes out of the time's "peace and love" philosophy, though!
The second story is very different in feel, set on an island of near-constant winter, where miners live a harsh and difficult life - but one that they seem to love, with its hard but honest labor - and plenty of heavy drinking! A young man returns from study on the mainland, having learned about dragons, and full of the realization that the unusual winter of his homeland is caused by a sleeping dragon... This seems an absurd story, but he recruits a young miner girl to be his guide as he sets out to harrow the dragon (and hopefully, get it to leave peacefully.) But does the girl actually want to possibly bring about the end of the only life she has known?