26 September, 2010

Book Review: Spindle's End

Title: Spindle's End
Author: Robin McKinley
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 422
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Cover Rating: 2 out of 5. It would be good hanging in a museum, and I like it well enough, but it just isn't a cover, you know? It fits the book's plot, but it's not very dynamic.

Inside flap:

"We will keep her safe."
All the creatures of the forest and field and riverbank knew that the infant was special. She was the princess, spirited away from the evil fairy Pernicia on her name-day. But the curse was cast: some unknown time in the future Rosie would prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a poisoned sleep from which no one could rouse her.
   Katriona had whisked Rosie away from her lethal name-day and disappeared into the countryside with her. Katriona is a young fairy, apprenticed to her aunt, who is known to be the best fairy not only in their small home village of Foggy Bottom but in all the wild backland of the Gig. The two of them raise the princess as if she is their own in order to protect her. No other human, not even Rosie herself, knows her true identity.
   But Pernicia is looking for her, and Pernicia is formidably powerful and tirelessly intent on on revenge for a defeat four hundred years old. Two village fairies and all the animals in the realm may not be able to save Rosie.

My expectations: High. I loved Chalice and Dragonhaven so I was really looking forward to reading this book.

It did not let me down.

About the book: Robin McKinley is like the ultimate in Fantasy literature. Her writing is superb, and she manages to do it with long sentences; I much prefer long sentences as opposed to short ones. This book, Spindle's End, lives up to that reputation. The world that's created in this book, from the magic to the small town life, is very well set up, the characters are great for the book, and while the plot is based on Sleeping Beauty, it's not the usual overused idea--she's elaborated on it until it's much more original than any other retelling.

  • Plot:

We all know the story of Sleeping Beauty, right? Princess gets cursed, lives with fairies, finds handsome guy in the woods, (if I were her, I would have kicked him and told him to take a hike) falls in love with said handsome guy, finds out she's a princess and can't marry the man she met, sobs her heart out, goes to castle, she's cursed by the evil fairy, and back comes the handsome guy to--ta-da!--and he wakes her up with a kiss.

Spindle's End is nothing like that. First of all, while there is a good-looking boy who starts working around Rosie, nothing happens between them. Second of all, the way the curse is set and they way Rosie starts living with fairies is different than the Disney version. Third of all, the ending--

Right. Don't give it away! Although once Peony came into the picture I could guess what was going to happen. It's a bit in the open, but the action is a little distracting from it. There is a lot more action than in the typical Sleeping Beauty. The romance is also much better; there are all sorts of complications, mis-beliefs, the usual things, but it's all put together very well and quietly; it's important for the plot and certainly adds, except  it's not like LOVE TRIANGLE and I'LL DIE WITHOUT HIM.

  • Characters:

Rosie. One of the best female protagonists I've met up with, I've got to say. She's no Katsa or Fire, but she is tough underneath the curly head of hair, while at the same time she's not nasty or spiteful and enjoy to talk to poeple. And no, she's not the sweet, singing, dancing Beauty either--instead, she'd much rather hang around the smithy and work with the animals. She hates all those domestic duties that she'd been blessed with--sewing, knitting, etc., and a perfect complexion just makes her more irritable. (Girl, do you know how much some teenagers would give to be completely zit-free?)

Peony is the opposite of Rosie in all but appearance. She's sweet, she's tender, she's just the perfect image of what Rosie is not. She likes to sew, embroider, loves beautiful things, and doesn't have the gumption that Rosie has. However, she was an excellent character--the perfect foil against her best friend's temperament.

Katriona was strong when she had to be at the start. I liked Katriona; I missed her narrative when it shifted away from Rosie to her, but that was all right for the plot.

Narl was your typical strong and very, very silent type. He doesn't speak much at all and deals a lot with iron, that metal fairies hate and usually stay away from. He's no father for Rosie, but he takes her on and teaches her about animals. I really, really liked him as a character.

Aunt was strong, powerful, and smart when it came to what to do with Rosie when Katriona came home with her; a good character.

There are a lot of minor characters as well, but suffice it to say they're all about as good as the ones mentioned above.

  • Setting/Elements:

I love the world in this book. Magic! Fairies! Animals! Forests! It's all described very well. I have to say that occasionally the animals' names got me confused, since there are dogs and foxes and mice and other creatures all running around they've all got titles. That confused me sometimes, but I got it organized eventually.

Other: D-word and the the term "bloody". It's nothing serious, and while there is some romance it's not in your face and screeching.

Do I recommend this book? YES. Yes, yes, yes.

-----The Golden Eagle


John The Bookworm said...

Girl, you do NOT know how awesome this book is to me. It was my first Robin McKinley. My second was Rose Daughter. They hold a lot of great memories, and are some of her best fantasy retellings (though pretty much all of them are amazing). :D

Not Hannah said...

I adore Robin McKinley so much that not only did I NOT suffer through two (or three, counting Sunshine) retellings of "Beauty and the Beast," but I consider every one of her books (with the exception, oddly, of Dragonhaven) book friends. If you haven't read THE BLUE SWORD or THE HERO AND THE CROWN (in that order), go do it now. Now, I say. (Er. I'm a wee passionate about Ms. McKinley.)

The Golden Eagle said...

John: I HAVE to read those books sometime! I saw her book Water in the library the same day I took out Spindle's End and now I'm frustrated at myself for not taking it out. Sigh. But I'll raid my library again soon and see if there's anything by her.

Not Hannah: I'm always passionate about authors that I think write really well. :D

Orchid said...

Great review! I loved this book (read it last year, for at least the third time) and every other book by her that I've read. Have you read The Hero and the Crown? It's my absolute favorite by her.

The Golden Eagle said...

Nope, I haven't read it! I really need to. :)

Hannah Kincade said...

oooh, I've had this one sitting on my shelves for ages! I will def have to move it up! Thanks for the review.

The Golden Eagle said...

I hope you like it!

Jen Chandler said...

Great review! I've seen this one around but have yet to pick it up! Sounds fabulous (and way better than the Disney version).


The Golden Eagle said...

Definitely better than the Disney version. :)