Writers are terrible hoarders, in a sense they have to
be as ideas can come at anytime and from anywhere. The jottings,
often as not, go nowhere or become absorbed into other, later,
works. Even if completed, these vignettes often do not find
a home. Across the Water: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other
Stories by Garth Nix is such a collection of jottings
which finally made it into completed pieces and found a home.
is an Australian author of adolescent fantasy novels, best
known for his Seventh Tower and Old Kingdom
series. Across the Water is not strictly a collection
of short stories. The first story, Nicholas Sayre and the
Creature in the Case, is a novella set in the Old Kingdom
and will be the one which will be of most interest to Nix
fans. Non Nix fans may struggle a bit as there are references
to that world within the story, which have no explanation.
It's a bit like having a story of a noble attending Aragorn's
wedding without any idea of the background or history. Also
it is the only story actually set in this fictional world,
which may disappoint some dedicated readers hoping for a collection
of Old Kingdom stories. That said, the story of Nicholas's
unfortunate meeting with a demon at his uncle's house remains
a rip roaring adventure.
rest of the stories cover many fantasy elements. Under
the Lake is a retelling of the Arthurian legend of the
lady in the lake but this time twisting it so that she is
more monster than goddess. Not content with one Arthurian
tale Nix also includes a Merlin story with Hearts Desire.
well as legend, Nix includes a number of fairy stories, some
re-workings of well know stories as in the re-imagining of
Hansel and Gretel in Hansel's Eyes, but also
a very poignant original story in Three Roses.
rest of the stories cover a multitude of genres and story
types and even includes a miniature multiple end adventure
game in Down to the Scum Quarter. In Hope Chest,
Nix revels in his love of Western stories, though, by his
own admission is unable to refrain from injecting a fantasy
element even here.
remaining stories, The Hill Charlie Rabbit, From
the Lighthouse, Lightning Bringer, My New Really
Epic Fantasy Series and Endings are a hodgepodge
of Science Fiction and Fantasy.
admits that these stories cover an extensive period of his
writing career, and so the quality can be variable. Undoubtedly
the first story is the strongest and will be the one that
fans of his novels will be buying the book for, however some
of the shorter pieces have a lot going for them. I was especially
touched by Endings and Three Roses. His writing
style is straight forward and you get the feeling that the
author behind the book is most likely a decent bloke.
well as the book having an introduction, each of the stories
has a small preface telling you something about the story.
They do not provide any depth of detail into the writing process,
but their inclusion is welcome none the less. The book is
rounded off with a couple of pages of frequently asked questions
and, bizarrely enough, Garth Nix is his real name.
the book is more of a Nix taster, if, like me, you have never
read one of his previous novels it might just tempt you into
reading his other fantasy series.