In this collection, you will find stories that range from the mythic to contemporary fantasy to science fiction. You will find a troll, gryphons, a beloved dog, the Land of the Dead, an owl, a minotaur, and a very alien Cat. Earth and Air is the third and final book in a trilogy of shared collections connected by the four classical elements. It follows previous volumes Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits and Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits, written by both Peter Dickinson and Robin McKinley.
Ridiki is Steff’s beloved dog, named after Eurydice, whom the poet Orpheus tried to bring back from the dead. When, like her namesake, Ridiki is bitten by a snake and dies, Steff decides that he too should journey to the Underworld to ask the King of the Land of the Dead for his dog back.
Mari is the seventh child of a family in which troll blood still runs. When her husband goes missing in a Scottish loch, she must draw upon the power of her blood to rescue him. Sophie, a young girl, fashions a witch’s broomstick out of an ash sapling, and gets more than she bargained for. An escaped slave, Varro, must kill a gryphon, in order to survive. A boy named Yanni allies himself with an owl and a goddess in order to fight an ancient evil. A group of mind-bonded space travelers must face an unknown threat and solve the murder of a companion before time runs out.
All of these stories are about, in one way or another, the contrary and magical pull of two elements, Earth and Air. Each story showcases the manifold talents of a master storyteller and craftsman who has twice won the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Award, as well as the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.
A Junior Library Guild Selection
“Mining folklore for ideas is routine in modern fantasy, but not many can add the surprising twists and novel logic that Peter Dickinson does. These are beautiful stories, deft, satisfying, unexpected. They deserve to become classics of the genre.”
—Tom Shippey, Wall Street Journal
“I particularly enjoyed “Ridiki”, a version of the Eurydice story substituting a boy’s beloved dog Ridiki for Eurydice, and “Wizand”, which cleverly portrays the unusual lifecycle of the wizand, which confers power on witches, including, in this story, a 20th-century girl named Sophie. Most intriguing, perhaps, is the final story, “The Fifth Element”, which doesn’t as obviously deal with an “elemental creature” as the other stories. Instead, it’s an odd science fiction horror story, that reminded me of Philip K. Dick’s first published story, “Beyond Lies the Wub”, and Robert Sheckley’s “Specialist”, in telling of the multispecies crew of a sort of tramp starship, and what happens when their “ship’s Cat” dies.”
—Rich Horton, Locus
The prevailing spirit of Earth and Air seems to be Mercury, the sardonic trickster. Read it with your mind open, senses alert… and prepare for a marvelously bumpy ride.
–Faren Miller, Locus
“Dickinson completes the series of “elemental” tales he began with his wife Robin McKinley (Water, rev. 7/02; Fire, rev. 11/09). Though links to the theme can be tenuous, these six new stories are provocative in both variety and ideas. . . .and with Dickinson’s usual command of imaginative imagery and beautifully tooled language, this is a fitting capstone to the series.”
“The prevailing tone of all six is somewhat dark, even saturnine, though not without flashes of hope. In content and style, they are sophisticated and challenging to the extent that the volume might have been published as an adult book. Certainly it has strong crossover appeal. Older teens and Dickinson fans of all ages will find the stories rewarding despite the investment of effort in the reading experience.”
“Noted fantasist Dickinson concludes the cycle of elemental stories he began with Robin McKinley in Fire (BCCB 11/09) and Water(BCCB 7/02) in a solo outing with tales of earth and air spirits. Aside from the sci-fi influenced final story, “The Fifth Element,” the five preceding tales evoke an old-world flavor of magic, incorporating pieces of Greek mythology and European folklore, sometimes placing archetypal beings in the modern world of cars and email. Appropriately, the two tales focusing on earth creatures, “Troll Blood” and “Wizand” (yes, that is the right spelling), are characterized by densely loaded prose and deal with themes of love, lust, and possession. Without McKinley’s more adolescent-focused contributions, the stories lean more toward a new adult audience, though the two animal-centered stories, “Ridiki” and “Scops,” will appeal to pet-friendly readers, particularly dog lovers. These stories are nonetheless thoughtful and provocative, and they will find an audience among Dickinson’s usual fans.”
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“These unusual, memorable tales from a much-admired writer should appeal both to teens and Dickinson’s adult fans.”
“Strange, sometimes beautiful tales.”
“They are beautifully told and move so effortlessly that I was startled to discover I’d read the book in one sitting.”
Table of Contents
The Fifth Element
Praise for Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits
World Fantasy Award finalist
“There is plenty here to excite, enthrall, and move even the pickiest readers.”—School Library Journal
“… a collection of enchanting tales.”—Publishers Weekly
Praise for Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits
“This collection of beautifully crafted tales will find a warm welcome.”—School Library Journal
“Dickinson’s offerings are notable for their sophisticated magical thinking and subtlety of expression.”—The Horn Book
“Dickinson’s stories are told with a storyteller’s cadence.”—Booklist
“This collection … offers something for every fantasy fan.”—Library Media Connection
Praise for Peter Dickinson’s children’s books:
“One of the real masters of children’s literature.”
“Peter Dickinson is a national treasure.”
“Wholly enjoyable – fascinating, sophisticated and funny.”
“Magnificent. Peter Dickinson is the past-master story-teller of our day.”
—Times Literary Supplement
“A haunting novel that resonates with ancient and primitive mysteries.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Like his stellar novels Shadow of a Hero and Bone from a Dry Sea, Dickinson’s latest offering moves from the mythic to the particular and back again, making clear the ways in which an individual’s extraordinary experience could metamorphose into an entire culture’s legend. Readers who are willing and able to fall into step with its majestic pace will be rewarded by a thought-provoking trek through a fairy tale world that is as breathtakingly fresh as it is archetypal…. A challenging magical adventure for the thinking reader.”
“Dickinson works his own wonders in a thoroughly compelling tale that delves into the nature of both magic and time…. Dickinson’s world is vividly realized, his play with time and magic is totally credible, and his characterizations are fully developed.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“As much as anything, this book is about the power of story and the influence it can have on ordinary people’s lives.”
—School Library Journal
Peter Dickinson OBE is a two-time winner of both the Carnegie Medal and Whitbread Award and winner of the Guardian Award. He has twice received the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger as well as the Guardian Award and Whitbread Prize. His latest book is Earth and Air: Tales of Elemental Spirits (Big Mouth House). He lives in England and is married to the novelist Robin McKinley.