Publisher: Ace Books
Publish Date: 2000
How I got this book: Purchased
All the creatures of forest, field and riverbank knew the baby was special. She was the princess Briar-Rose, cursed by the evil fairy Pernicia on her name-day. But Katriona stole her away to the small village where Kat lives with her aunt, and they raise the princess as if she were their own. No other human, not even Rosie herself, knows her true identity.
But Pernicia is looking for her, and two village fairies and all the animals in the realm may not be enough to save her.
This blurb came from the author’s website here.
In my opinion, fantasy is based on fairy tales or myths and legends depending on how you like to phrase them. As many civilizations as have existed different stories some about what/who came before, others intended as a teaching or a warning tool. Those stories change from civilization to civilization and as time passes. In fact some of the stories become “watered down” from their older versions as the need for those lessons/warnings disappears. Here in the US most people are familiar with Han Christian Andersen, Andrew Lang and his series of colored fairy tale books like The Yellow Fairy Book, or Walt Disney’s versions. Growing up I spent a lot of time seeking out and reading as many different variations of fairy tales, myths and legends as I could find. One of my favorite tales happens to be Sleeping Beauty. I have enjoyed all of the different variations I have found including Disney’s movie (my favorite of their animated movies) so when I heard that Robin McKinley was coming out with a retelling I had to get it. Over the past 12 years I have worn out two MMPB copies of Spindle’s End.
The basic story is the same, King and Queen have a little girl, the country rejoices, a party is thrown in her honor, an evil witch/fairy visits and gifts a curse, the child is hidden, the evil witch/fairy finds her and arranges for the curse to happen, after a series of events good manages to triumph over evil. What makes this version special is the world-building, the characters and their personalities, and the twists that are added. Even though I knew Spindle’s End would have a happy ending I was still swept along the journey towards that ending and wondered how that happy ending would look.
I have found that Ms McKinley always pays attention to the details. After she has described something I can almost see, smell, and taste it as I continue to read which makes it really easy for me to suspend disbelief. Nothing is mentioned or included that doesn’t have a purpose even if it seems like it is just part of the scenery. I really enjoy being able to just sit back and read knowing that nothing will jar me out of the world she has created. Ms McKinley puts the same amount of detail into her characters, human or otherwise, primary or supporting cast. They are all three-dimensional and how they interact with each other directly relates to their respective viewpoints of the world. The different animals still retained a sense of otherness combined with their various traits.
I enjoyed watching the slow unfolding of an understanding between Katriona and Barder along with their eventual family. The initial meeting between Rosie and Peony and their mutual awkwardness that turned into best friends was a great thing to see. I also really enjoyed how time passed for everyone except for Narl, who while a mystery to the entire town was also a key member of the town. The rest of the villagers were rooted in the very ordinary and filled all niches you find in a small mainly self-contained group of people. They provided the grounding, which made magic, fairies, and everything associated with them seem part of everyday life. The twists that were also caused in part by the characters are what pushed this beyond just a retelling into a really good retelling. Those twists are major spoilers so I am not going to discuss what they are just that they fit perfectly and ensured that I was satisfied with the happy ending.
The combination of Ms McKinley’s world-building, characters, their interactions with each other and some really neat twists have provided me with a well fleshed out fairy tale that each time I re-read provides me with hours of entertainment.
I give Spindle’s End an A.