Spindle’s End

First Lines: The magic in that country was so thick and tenacious that it settled over the land like chalk-dust and over floors and shelves like slightly sticky plaster-dust.

I have a thing for fairytales (as many of you already know), and I’ve yet to find someone who writes better fairytales than Robin McKinley.  And, even though Sleeping Beauty isn’t my favorite tale, I’d been meaning to read this for a while.

After years and years of waiting for a babe, the King and Queen finally find themselves expecting a little bundle of joy.  The kingdom couldn’t be happier to have a new princess…until Pernicia, an angry fairy, places a curse upon the princess that she will prick her finger by her twenty-first birthday on a spindle’s end.  Desperate to keep her safe, another fairy gives the princess to someone who will watch over her and protect her.  Newly named Rosie, the princess is being raised away from the palace and those who could hurt her.  But will Rosie survive to her 21st birthday?

Like I said, this isn’t my favorite fairytale.  And that might have colored my impressions of this book somewhat, even though I tried not to let that happen.

For some reason, this book just didn’t work for me.  There were many things I liked about it.  I liked the narration style, the way it jumps around a bit between characters at random.  It felt like someone was telling me the story.  Those kind of stories never quite follow chronological order or a solid narration line. So I liked that it made it feel realistic in that sense.

I also liked McKinley’s twists on the story.  Particularly with Rosie’s character.  Rosie is a very strong, independent girl who pretty well demolishes everyone else’s expectations of who she should be.  It was done so naturally that it simply felt like Rosie’s character instead of some kind of statement about princess culture.  Whenever Rosie’s stubborn streak came out, I always though, “Oh, there goes Rosie again,” instead of something like, “Wow, McKinley really wanted us to understand the effects of the princess culture we’re used to.”  It wasn’t like that at all.

There was something else about the story that made it hard to get through, though it’s hard for me to pin down exactly what that is.  Partly, I think it’s the plot.  I was more excited by the beginning than the ending.  I even got to a point where I didn’t care how it ended.  (I found the ending to be confusing as well, which didn’t help.)  But also the narration bogged things down at times.  There were so many inconsequential details that I just skipped.  I skipped whole paragraphs sometimes when they were talking about an animal’s fur color or how the trees danced in the wind or whatever it was about.  I got bored.

It is a harder read.  It’s not something you can breeze through in an afternoon.  And maybe that’s part of the issue too.  I wish I knew.

I still think McKinley is a great writer.  Her fairytale retellings are ace.  It’s just that this one didn’t work for me.

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