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The Book of Wonder [Paperback]

Lord Dunsany
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 1 2009
When first the feet of the centaur touched the grass of that soft alluvial earth he blew for joy upon the silver horn, he pranced and caracoled, he gambolled over the leagues; pace came to him like a maiden with a lamp, a new and beautiful wonder; the wind laughed as it passed him. He put his head down low to the scent of the flowers, he lifted it up to be nearer the unseen stars, he revelled through kingdoms, took rivers in his stride; how shall I tell you, ye that dwell in cities, how shall I tell you what he felt as he galloped?
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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In the morning of his two hundred and fiftieth year Shepperalk the centaur went to the golden coffer, wherein the treasure of the centaurs was, and taking from it the hoarded amulet that his father, Jyshak, in the year of his prime, had hammered from mountain gold and set with opals bartered from the gnomes, he put in upon his wrist, and said no word but walked from his mother's cavern. Read the first page
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonder book Jan. 1 2006
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Long before "Lord of the Rings" took the world by storm, there were a handful of fantasy writers whose works were little known, but pure and untainted by other writers' works.

Lord Dunsany was one of those few writers, and "The Book of Wonder" is one of the collections of his stories -- grotesque, whimsical, humorous and solemn. Full of gods and goblins, royals and dragons, this is some of Dunsany's best-known work.

It's a mix of all kinds of fantasy tales: a man whose interest in his imaginary land eclipses the real world; a magical window that shows amazing things; suitors try to make a cold-hearted queen cry; the story of the Gibbelins, who eat "nothing less good than man"; and of Miss Cubbins and the Dragon of Romance.

Most entertaining is the tale of Chu-bu and Sheemish: idol Chu-bu is inceansed when a new idol (Sheemish) is moved into his temple. So Chu-bu and Sheemish start insulting each other. And their resulting babyish squabble has the power to level a city and destroy a civilization, and the victor doesn't exactly live on in glory....

Dunsany's fantasies aren't as vibrantly realistic as J.R.R. Tolkien's, or as pensive as C.S. Lewis's. Instead they're like fantastical, melancholy little paintings. Some are whimsical like "Miss Cubbins and the Dragon of Romance" or "Chu-Bu and Sheemish," while others are majestic and vaguely mythic, like old stories that have only recently been dug up.

His writing is lush and descriptive, but in the slightly distant style of the late nineteenth orearly twentieth century. "Night was roaming away with his cloak trailed behind him, with mists turned over and over as he went," one story goes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't be afraid to visit the land of Wonder June 29 2011
Format:Paperback
Lord Dunsany is, sadly, a forgotten authour with, besides a fantastic writing name, a skill of creating tales of such magic and fancy that it almost seems unfair what he's able to accomplish in four or five pages what modern authours can't accomplish in 500. Dunsany was a major influence on such more well-known writers as J.R.R. Tolkien and H.P. Lovecraft, though it is difficult to tell so from this collection of short stories. The Book of Wonder doesn't contain Dunsany's works on myth and legend, and instead focuses on magical, almost whimsical, stories that can range from humourous to frightening. If you're looking for the works that directly inspired those two writers I mentioned above, you may be more interested in getting hold of "Time and the Gods," or "The Gods of Pegana."

Described by Lovecraftian scholar S.T. Joshi as one of the most consistent writers of weird fiction, every short tale in this book will be sure to have you return to it, if only to pour over some of the incredibly well written prose that Dunsany filled every page with. Some of the stand-out tales are "The Probable Adventure of Three Literary Men," "Pombo the Idolator," "The Quest of the Queens Tears," and "The Hoard of the Gibbelins." Although these are the ones that stand out in my mind now, none of the stories in this book are bad; in fact, all are incredibly good and stand the test of time like few can.

If you are interested in the primordial roots of modern fantasy, looking for some unique bed-time stories to tell your children, or just want to keep alive the memory of a sadly forgotten authour, I wholeheartedly recommend Lord Dunsany's "Book of Wonder." Come join the Man-Horse in his travels to find the far city of Zretazoola.
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5.0 out of 5 stars words fail me (but never him) June 19 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Brothers and sisters, words fail me in trying to communicate to you who and what Lord Dunsany was. The truth is so simple, and yet seems so fantastic that you might hesitate to believe it. He is the best writer of fantasy, beyond any reasonable question, that there ever was, or likely ever shall be (the same could be said of him as a short story writer in general, and must be, because we are here to tell the truth for a change). Tolkien, for example, is nothing but a pale shadow cast by the sun that is Dunsany; Lovecraft was a rather silly-seeming imitation. Once you have drunk from this well nothing else even comes close; it will almost ruin you for other writers. The question is, if he is just the deepest, saddest, funniest, most clever, most beautiful, and maybe flat-out best writer of any kind the latter-day Western world has produced -- and he is, brothers and sisters, he IS -- why doesn't everyone know about it? Why has he fallen into obscurity? The reason is simple and obvious. Look around you. The world has gone mad. We have lost all connection to the real. And this great man, this Lord Dunsany, saw it, saw it before almost anyone, saw it happening all around him. And he went out and wrote stories about it, stories that are the least real things ever created on the surface -- but touch the very highest levels of reality in their deeper parts. It is just those parts that are invisible or despised in our mad world, and that is why he is hated, ignored, forgotten -- by all but a few, a few who can peer through those veils of madness. Dunsany's work is not escapism. Read more ›
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For all practical purposes, this is only half of the book Sept. 12 2004
By James Rockhill - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the fifth collection of ironic yet gorgeous tales to be published by Lord Dunsany. Like its four predecessors, it was accompanied by equally splendid illustrations by Sidney Sime. Sime's illustrations add to each of the books in which they appear. In this book, however, where the illustrations came first and inspired most of the fourteen stories, their omission is more than a mere inconvenience. The tales remain enjoyable - as the products of early Dunsany, how could they not be? - but this edition deprives the reader of participation in the playful interaction between prose and image intended by its creators.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be read by all _Thief_ players. :) Dec 3 2000
By Michele L. Worley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Three tales of famous thieves are part of this collection. _The Book of Wonder_ consists of 14 of Dunsany's short stories (I've sorted them by title rather than order of appearance); it's in print as I write this, as part of the Fantasy Masterworks edition of _Time and the Gods_.
"The Bride of the Man-Horse" - Shepperalk the centaur headed from the first for the city of Zretazoola, though all the mundane plain lay between.
"Chu-bu and Sheemish" - The idol Chu-bu was worshipped alone in his temple for over a hundred years, until the day the priests brought in the upstart idol Sheemish to be worshipped beside him.
"The Coronation of Mr. Thomas Shap" - When Mr. Shap perceived the beastliness of his occupation as a salesman, he began to venture into the lands of dream and wonder as an escape.
"Distressing Tale of Thangobrind the Jeweller" - Thangobrind, a master thief operating behind a cover as a jeweller, is offered the soul of a Merchant Prince's daughter in exchange for stealing a diamond from the temple of Hlo-Hlo...
"The Hoard of the Gibbelins" - The Gibbelins maintain their hoard only to attract a continual supply of food...humans...
"The House of the Sphinx" - A visitor chances to come to the House of the Sphinx after a mighty deed has been done, and her servants are in a panic...
"How Nuth Would Have Practiced His Art Upon the Gnoles" - Nuth the incomparable is a master thief. "It may be urged against my use of the word incomparable that in the burglary business the name of Slith stands paramount and alone; and of this I am not ignorant; but Slith is a classic, and lived long ago, and knew nothing at all of modern competition..."
"How One Came, as Was Foretold, to the City of Never" - "Time had been there, but not to work destruction...by I know not what bribe averted." But not even that Ultimate City is perfect.
"The Injudicious Prayers of Pombo the Idolater" - It is unwise to pray to one idol, only to become impatient and ask another idol to curse the first one; it's against their etiquette....
"The Loot of Bombasharna" - The seas are becoming too hot to hold Captain Shard and the crew of the pirate ship _Desperate Lark_. The sacking of Bombasharna is to be their last hurrah before retirement...
"Miss Cubbidge and the Dragon of Romance" - If princesses are in short supply, sometimes a dragon might have to kidnap the daughter of a member of Parliament.
"Probable Adventure of Three Literary Men" - "When the nomads came to El Lola they had no more songs, and the question of stealing the golden box arose in all its magnitude." The legendary thief Slith, along with two assistants because of the weight of the box of poems, are chosen to make the attempt.
"The Quest of the Queen's Tears" - Sylvia, Queen of the Woods, cannot love any of her suitors, but as a compromise, will consent to marry the first man who can move her to tears.
"The Wonderful Window" - The mysterious window was being offered for sale in the streets of London, and its price is all you possess.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful fantasy April 30 2002
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It can only be guessed at why this book was out of print in the US until recently. In it, the reader can discover a charming collection of VERY short stories, which flit from whimsical to mythological, humorous to chilling. All are written in Dunsany's incomparable prose, which ranges from arch first-person narrative to stuff that sounds like embellished mythology.
In this you'll find centaurs, sphinxes, master thieves, about-to-retire pirate chiefs, kings trying to move an emotionless queen to tears, a magical window, a pair of feuding idols, and a delightful story called "Miss Cubbidge and the Dragon of Romance." In addition, this new reprint by Wildside Press has a beautiful cover of a young boy on a winged horse.
The stories are a little short -- much shorter than most present-day short fantasy stories -- but they are just amazing. A must-read for immediate suspension of belief.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful stories -- terrible edition Feb. 25 2007
By Autodidact - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Dunsany's stories are lyrical and meant to be read aloud to grownups in front of a fire. I am setting out to read everything he has ever written. But I would advise you to steer clear of this very poorly edited edition. There are repeating paragraphs, spelling errors, erroneous word replacements . . . all of which interfere with the beautiful rhythm of Dunsany's writing.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wondrously Feb. 24 2007
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Long before "Lord of the Rings" took the world by storm, there were a handful of fantasy writers whose works were little known, but pure and untainted by other writers' works.

Lord Dunsany was one of those few writers, and "The Book of Wonder" is one of the collections of his stories -- grotesque, whimsical, humorous and solemn. Full of gods and goblins, royals and dragons, this is some of Dunsany's best-known work.

It's a mix of all kinds of fantasy tales: a man whose interest in his imaginary land eclipses the real world; a magical window that shows amazing things; suitors try to make a cold-hearted queen cry; the story of the Gibbelins, who eat "nothing less good than man"; and of Miss Cubbins and the Dragon of Romance.

Most entertaining is the tale of Chu-bu and Sheemish: idol Chu-bu is inceansed when a new idol (Sheemish) is moved into his temple. So Chu-bu and Sheemish start insulting each other. And their resulting babyish squabble has the power to level a city and destroy a civilization, and the victor doesn't exactly live on in glory....

Dunsany's fantasies aren't as vibrantly realistic as J.R.R. Tolkien's, or as pensive as C.S. Lewis's. Instead they're like fantastical, melancholy little paintings. Some are whimsical like "Miss Cubbins and the Dragon of Romance" or "Chu-Bu and Sheemish," while others are majestic and vaguely mythic, like old stories that have only recently been dug up.

His writing is lush and descriptive, but in the slightly distant style of the late nineteenth orearly twentieth century. "Night was roaming away with his cloak trailed behind him, with mists turned over and over as he went," one story goes. He handled comedy, tragedy, horror, and made-up legends with skill and imagination. And though his made-up legends and myths aren't actually in this book, you can see hints of it in some of the stories.

"The Book of Wonder" is an excellent collection of some of Dunsany's best short stories, both funny and frightening. Vivid and beautifully written, this early fantasy writer is a must-have.
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