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Robin McKinley: Spindle's End

cover of Spindle's EndSpindle's End is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. The princess, who has about two dozen names, is nicknamed Rosie. She's spirited off to a tiny village called Foggy Bottom by Katriona, a fairy-in-training who attended the 'christening' of the child. After the twenty (out of twenty-one) fairies chosen as godparents call out their wishes for the newborn infant, Maleficent shows up and performs her curse. Katriona takes the princess, with the Queen's servant's blessing, and hides Rosie safe away.

The world of Spindle's End is delightfully whimsical. Before all of the hullabaloo about Rosie--or a princess at all--occurs, McKinley gives a taste of the world. Magic isn't really governed by a set of rules; it's just there, in the same way that you oughtn't eat fish, only really crazy people (or people who become insane) do so. Fish live in the water, which tends to be most infested with magic, you see. Katriona and her aunt are both fairies and can deal with magic, and are therefore the people that are approached when uncontrollable magic happens--when a fairy child starts exhibiting their magic, when strange things happen in the village, and if you need your kettle descaled from magic. There are all sorts of little anecdotes told about the world of Spindle's End, which make the whole thing really very charming.

I really loved about 80% of this book, which covers Rosie's growing-up and the early years. Characters like Katriona and Aunt and Peony are somewhat subversive, in both ways--both considering how Sleeping Beauty plays out and simply for characterization. Peony, for example, I especially liked, because she's described as a paragon, but instead of being empty-headed or hated by the heroine (if the heroine is not a paragon herself) she's Rosie's best friend. I liked that Rosie was still raised by three fairies, although I didn't realize till way after the reveal. And then the climax and resolution happened, and I finished the book and honestly thought there might be a sequel, because that's not resolution.

[Spoilers under the cut]I didn't mind the conflict with Maleficient, although it was really strange and not at all like the rest of the book. The point that really bothered me--that was the part about the Queen. The part where a great deal is made about the Queen and how she misses her daughter Rosie--how she wishes, so much, that the princess could be safe with her. And so to have Peony swapped in, completely fooling the Queen, is not okay. And it's treated just as if it's a good solution. I get that this isn't the sort of set up where you'll get an easy resolution, but to have Peony simply switched for Rosie was not okay. This kind of resolution is the mix-up that begins stories, not ends them.

Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/131706.html.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 6th, 2013 07:23 am (UTC)
She does have a good voice in that book, doesn't she? (apart from when describing the battle, which I think is a grudge I will never let go.) It reminds me a lot of George Macdonald, especially The Light Princess (Project Gutenberg, you might enjoy it?). She has a very similar narrative voice in The Door in the Hedge, although I had other issues with that collection.

Isn't Katriona a great character? She's so human and so practical - she reminds me a lot of a particular friend of mine, actually - and that moment near the end when Peony's parents are acting relieved, and Katriona processes their apologism, was so moving.

Terrible endings: gift to fanfic writers, I guess. *eyeroll*
Jun. 6th, 2013 08:07 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I liked the world of Foggy Bottom and the kingdom a lot. I've looked at AO3 and FF.N to see if there's any fix-it or just playing around in the sandbox, because it's so whimsical and fun!

I'll add that to my recs list :)

Yeah, I love how there wasn't really a hateable character in the book aside from Maleficent. Everyone was genuinely kind! I was afraid that Aunt might turn out to be secretly bitter or evil or something, but it never happened!
Jun. 6th, 2013 07:49 pm (UTC)
I was hesitating on reading this book, so I clicked the spoiler. NOPE not reading it. That is not even remotely okay.
Jun. 6th, 2013 07:55 pm (UTC)
I was pretty mad. And I liked the rest of the book so much, too! ;_;
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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