I don't often read short stories - I'm more into sprawling multi-volume works at the moment - but this is a good reminder of what I'm missing. A seemingly innocuous and gentle ramble, and then - wham, the kick in the tail. Like a fine whisky, it slips down oh so smoothly, and then sets you on fire.
These three stories from the author of the wonderful 'The Stone Dragon' have the same timeless, classic simplicity of the novel, with an almost whimsical surface hiding something much more profound underneath. The longest of the three, after which the book is named, is a charming tale of family and differentness and the magic that lies therein and much more besides, because this is the kind of writing where you can take out of it as many layers as you want - every time you look, there's something more there. It's also the one with the biggest emotional kick at the end. The second story, 'River's Daughter', is beautiful even though I'm not at all sure I understood much of it. My favourite is the last, 'T'uk's Dilemma', which elegantly explains an intriguing quirk of the novel.
All are written in a lyrical style which would bear reading aloud, and both the first and third could easily work as bedtime fairytales for children (but perhaps not 'River's Daughter' - 'Mummy, Mummy, what does "urging the last of his seed to release" mean?'). And all of them share another quality with the novel: they silently work their way into your brain so that odd images and thoughts and layers of meaning hover around like smoke for days afterwards. Highly recommended.