The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Book of Wonder: A Chronicle of Little Adventures at the Edge of the World is a collection of fourteen tales in which Lord Dunsany explores mythical cities and creatures as well as the fabulous exploits of familiar characters such as a young English girl, a pirate, a businessman, and thieves. An unusual feature of the collection is that Dunsany wrote the stories in response to the drawings of S. H. Sime, an illustrator whose style was often compared with Aubrey Beardsley’s, and whose wryly humorous yet macabre black-and-white compositions had accompanied Dunsany’s first four short-story collections.

Stories of atmosphere, evocative of mood rather than plot, character, or theme, the tales in The Book of Wonder are notable for the biblical style developed by Dunsany in his earlier work. They are also noteworthy for his facility with leading readers to the place in his subtitle, “the edge of the world.” The locations are recognizable but are all the more seductive for his facile transformation of accessible details into the images from dreams or nightmares.

In his preface, Dunsany invites readers “who are in any wise weary of London” to follow him to new worlds. Some of the stories take place solely in mystical realms and illustrate Dunsany’s oft-noted unique nomenclature. In “The Bride of the Man-Horse,” for example, Shepperalk the centaur leaves his home in the Athraninaurian mountains for Zretazoola, where he will seek a bride, Sombelene. In “The Quest of the Queen’s Tears,” Ackronnian, king of...

(The entire section is 641 words.)