Monday, December 28, 2009

Spindle's End by Robin McKinley

When it all comes down to it, which wins out: nature or nurture? Does the situation shape the person you become or are you that person regardless of situation? Does it matter if that person is a Princess?

Spindle's End is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Just as in the story, evil fairy Pernicia curses the infant princess at her christening to prick her finger on a spinning wheel on her twenty-first birthday and die. The baby is taken away by young fairy apprentice Katriona and raised by her and her aunt as an ordinary young girl. Nobody else knows that Rosie is really the princess, not even Rosie herself, until the truth is revealed to her just before her twenty-first birthday. Rosie has to struggle to come to grips with the two opposing sides of her identity: ordinary Rosie, who she was raised to be and actually was in the first place, and the Princess, someone she cannot identify with at all, but still who she is. Because only the princess can defeat Pernicia, Rosie must embrace the title to defeat the evil fairy.

Normally, I find anything containing fairies (Especially "faeries," ugh.) to be off-putting, to say the least. However, I really liked Spindle's End. What I enjoy the most about the book was how rich Robin McKinley's writing can be. Descriptions of magic and the uses of magic really sold me on the book. I admit that there were several times when I lost my grips on the action, especially towards the end, and I often had difficulty remembering who minor characters were when they were suddenly mentioned again 50 pages or so after they were introduced. Still, I far preferred this retelling to others I have read by Gregory Maguire. His works insert too much reality into fantasy for my taste. I prefer to keep a bit of the magic around. Flaws aside, Spindle's End was chock full of magic (And baby-magic, which is a term I love).