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Sunday, June 26, 2005

cover of Spindle's End

Another delightful fairy tale re-telling from Robin McKinley, this time (if you couldn't guess from the title), we get her version of Sleeping Beauty-- although there isn't so much slumbering in this story. McKinley creates a new country so saturated with magic that it settles around like dust and has the potential to invade such ordinary, every-day tasks as boiling water or slicing bread. This also allows McKinley to set up a dichotomy between the more academic and intellectual wizards, in contrast with the wilder, and ultimately more powerful magic of the fairies, both good and evil.

As with so many of McKinley's heroines, the girl who should be a slumbering princess is instead a tomboy who talks to animals, hangs around the smith's yard helping him shoe horses, and learns to be a horse doctor. Rosie detests the silly fairy-gifts she was given by her fairy godmothers at her christening (things like ridiculously long eye-lashes, curly blond hair, and the like), and has a stubbornness familiar to those who have encountered some of the other women in McKinley's books.

Because we all know the fairy tale, I'm not giving anything away when I say that the evil fairy Pernicia is defeated in the end. But the way that Rosie wins out is largly due to the strength of her own individuality, and also due to the loyalty of her many friends, both human and animal. Pernicia's strength is clear, and it is very obvious that things could have easily gone another way. This is one of the more creative retellings of a fairy tale I've read; the ending is fresh, and the characters (especially characters who never come into the traditional version of the tale) are delightful and lovable.

Title:Spindle's End
Author:Robin McKinley
Date published:2000
Number of pages:354
Notes:Second or third reading, at least.


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