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Spindle's End by Robin McKinley

Spindle's End (original 2000; edition 2002)

by Robin McKinley

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2,773582,113 (3.89)160
Title:Spindle's End
Authors:Robin McKinley
Info:Ace (2002), Mass Market Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:fantasy sf, fairy tales, sleeping beauty, rose red

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Spindle's End by Robin McKinley (2000)

(10) adventure (11) animals (11) fairies (24) fairy tale (134) fairy tale retelling (70) fairy tales (231) fairy tales retold (28) fantasy (691) fiction (276) love (11) magic (52) McKinley (17) novel (16) own (19) paperback (18) princess (20) read (41) retelling (65) robin mckinley (20) romance (35) sff (42) Sleeping Beauty (155) speculative fiction (14) teen (12) to-read (49) unread (14) YA (74) young adult (121) young adult fiction (14)
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» See also 160 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
Robin McKinley's best works, especially those drawn from traditional folklore, are so cozy, like a cup of tea on a rainy day. That is what I like best about Spindle's End, her take on "Sleeping Beauty": the simple warm feeling of it, rather than any particular characterization or twist of the plot. It's hard to completely dislike a novel that opens by declaring that "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." It's equally as difficult not to fall in love with the Gig, the especially magical corner of the kingdom where most of the story is set.

It's just a shame that McKinley wasn't able to create a more enthralling story to take place in this world. When I was a preteen, it took me two tries to get through Spindle's End, and though I found it to be smoother sailing as an adult, I still cannot say I love it. Part One is quite good, with provincial fairy Katriona attending the new baby princess's name day only to be saddled with the task of spiriting the child away after she is cursed in her cradle by the evil Pernicia. Katriona is to my mind the most vivid character in the book, and it's a shame she fades into the background after her flight back to the Gig. The rest of the book sort of plods along—it's about fifty pages too long, I'd say—and even the climax is more vague than it is exciting.

A good comfort read that I'll keep on my shelves and perhaps reach for again in another ten or fifteen years, but certainly not up to the standards of Beauty or the Damar books. ( )
1 vote ncgraham | Mar 25, 2014 |
  Melumebelle | Aug 8, 2013 |
I really like all the world-building in this. There's such a lot of it, right from the first few pages. The problem with it is that there's too much of it -- it's very vivid, but it weighs down the story. The story of Sleeping Beauty is usually fairly unadorned, and the elements of the original story seemed bogged down in all this detail.

It's delightful to read, in some ways, but it did take me a long time to finish reading, and it didn't grip me or become compulsive. I loved the tongue-in-cheek element to some of the details, like the way the fairy godmothers' gifts went awry, and absent-minded fairies getting burnt on their kettles.

I did care about the characters -- especially, though slowly, Narl -- but there wasn't enough happening. It's an awkward cross between a thick fantasy novel and a delicate little fairytale that doesn't quite work. It doesn't help that you start with Katriona, and get close to her as a narrator, but then she's supplanted by Rosie as she grows up. It's a bit like a bait-and-switch: I don't know how else the story could have been the way it is, but I liked Katriona and was quite happy to settle down in her POV.

I do like the ending. I was wondering, all through it, how various things were going to work out, and I like that they did work out... not perfectly, but as well as they could possibly do. I was almost surprised by how much I cared about the happy ending for Narl, but considering I haven't stopped grinning yet... I liked the way the traditional elements were all present, although not in quite the expected way -- in the kiss to wake the princess, for example. I liked the way that Rosie had to go out and fix things herself, that she didn't have to wait for any prince to come and save her.

I still feel oddly ambivalent about the whole thing, though. It's not a book I can see myself reading again because it took so long to read, and didn't grab hold of me in the way I liked. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
Hypnotic, tangled and often impenetrable narrative. The briar roses that grow up around the sleepers in this oddly compelling retelling of the Sleeping Beauty legend are a good metaphor for how McKinley's words coil around each other in paths untraceable by me. There are lovely, memorable passages which exist almost independent of the story, one of which I think I'll keep forever.

"What you describe is how it happens to everyone: magic does slide through you, and disappear, and come back later looking like something else. And I'm sorry to tell you this, but where your magic lives will always be a great dark space with scraps you fumble for. You must learn to sniff them out in the dark."

At the end I'm left with the feeling of having read a lovely fairy tale, most of which was far beyond my ken. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
I feel bad giving this book so few stars. But I honestly can't say that I enjoyed it. I actually skipped parts, and the darn thing was only 300 or so pages long.

McKinley is a good writer; she produces gorgeous and very funny prose, she's a master worldbuilder, and she creates believable characters and complex plots. I would have happily read the short story version of this novel. But I got bored at about the hundred page mark.

The reason I got bored is that this novel began with Rosie's birth (as it had to) and ended with the events surrounding her twenty-first birthday (as it had to). In the meantime, we had to watch Rosie grow up. And it was BORING.

It was boring, first of all, because of the style. McKinley *tells* the story rather than shows it, especially in the middle, and she is such a lovely writer that it almost works. Except that all of her pretty words actually form a barrier between us and the characters. Rosie and the others are interesting enough that we really could have fallen in love with them and rooted for them at the end. However, we're told what Rosie is like rather than witnessing what she's like, and as a result reading about her is not very compelling. In addition, whenever McKinley tries to create an emotional response with dramatic language, the subtle beauty of the words falls flat because it comes out of nowhere; all of a sudden this character who we don't really know all that well is having a poetical life-changing moment, and I'm left wondering, why? And so what?

Conclusion: Even writers who are super brilliant aren't allowed to break the "show don't tell" rule in long form fiction unless the story demands it. Not the story they think they're telling, the story that they're actually telling.

The other problem was that, oh yeah, NOTHING HAPPENED. It was about the characters and not the plot, and these characters were not dynamic enough to carry the story. Of course good characters don't have to be dynamic. In Coraline, the titular character is not, when you stop to think about it, a super dynamic or complex character, but she's believable and likable and as a result we're rooting for her every moment. The difference is that Coraline is always doing something, always in danger. By giving us a long middle in which there's only occasional danger, McKinley put the onus of interest on her characters, and thus fails.

I also have found that I generally dislike stories with friendly animal helpers. Did she really expect us to remember all of the names of the different animals? But I can accept that this might just be my problem.

I know a lot of people really like Spindle's End, and I do think it had a lot to like (how 'bout that worldbuilding)? I also know that it's often shelved as a children's or YA book (although I got it from the adult's section), so faulting it for a lack of complexity is perhaps not fair. But there are so many children's books that are super enjoyable for adults to read that I'm not going to give this one a pass on that account.

Not writing off McKinley entirely - I liked Beauty when I read it in high school! But I think I'll skip ahead a hundred pages in the next thing I read by her, to make sure that abrupt boredom does not ensue. ( )
  raschneid | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robin McKinleyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Craig, DanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the Lodge, my Woodwold and to the other Dickinsons who love it too.
First words
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.
Small spider weave on a silver sleeve,
Oh, weave your grey web nearer.
From a golden crown let your silk hang down,
For lost, lost, lost is the wearer.
Magic can't do everything.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
The princess has been missing since she was a baby. And Rosie, an ordinary girl, is growing up in an unremarkable little village far away from the royal city.

Unremarkable, that is, in a land where magic is so common that it settles over everything like dust. But a fairy curse is the kind of magic that nobody wants, beacuse it always comes true. And Rosie cannot stay ordinary for ever...
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0441008658, Mass Market Paperback)

Renowned fantasy writer Robin McKinley, author of the lush "Beauty and the Beast" retellings Beauty and Rose Daughter, has produced another re-mastered fairy tale, this time about the dreamy Sleeping Beauty. Much like in the original story, the infant princess, here named Rosie, is cursed by an evil fairy to die on her 21st birthday by pricking her finger on a spindle. That same day, Rosie is whisked away into hiding by a peasant fairy who raises her and conceals her royal identity. From that point on, McKinley's plot and characterization become wildly inventive. She imagines Rosie growing up into a strapping young woman who despises her golden hair, prefers leather breeches to ball gowns, and can communicate with animals. And on that fateful birthday, with no help from a prince, Rosie saves herself and her entire sleeping village from destruction, although she pays a realistic price. In a final master stroke, McKinley cleverly takes creative license when the spell-breaking kiss (made famous in "Sleeping Beauty") comes from a surprising source and is bestowed upon the character least expected.

Although the entire novel is well written, McKinley's characterization of Rosie's animal friends is exceptionally fine. Observations such as "...foxes generally wanted to talk about butterflies and grasses and weather for a long time while they sized you up," will spark reader's imaginations. It won't be hard to persuade readers of any age to become lost in this marvelous tale; the difficult part will be convincing them to come back from McKinley's country, where "the magic... was so thick and tenacious that it settled over the land like chalk dust...." Highly recommended. (Ages 12 and older) --Jennifer Hubert

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:46 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

The infant princess Briar Rose is cursed on her name day by Pernicia, an evil fairy, and then whisked away by a young fairy to be raised in a remote part of a magical country, unaware of her real identity and hidden from Pernicia's vengeful powers.

(summary from another edition)

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