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Spindle's End by Robin McKinley

Spindle's End (original 2000; edition 2002)

by Robin McKinley

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2,826592,058 (3.89)162
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

Work details

Spindle's End by Robin McKinley (2000)

  1. 10
    Entwined by Heather Dixon (SunnySD)
  2. 12
    Beauty Sleep by Cameron Dokey (Hollerama)
    Hollerama: Both works are adaptations of Sleeping Beauty.

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Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
Spindle’s End is a lusciously described retelling of Sleeping Beauty by Robin McKinley, an author who has always made a point of writing Girls Who Do Things. Obviously, in her version of Sleeping Beauty, the princess is going to do more than sleep the entire story.

And she does. There’s very little of the “sleeping” in her, or “beauty” or “princess” either, really. In an effort to protect her from the evil fairy who cursed her to die when she touched a spindle, Rosie’s been raised to believe that she’s just an ordinary peasant girl. Of course, Rosie’s being raised by two fairies, so “ordinary” might not be the right word.

While Rosie may have been blessed with many typical princess attributes, such as long golden curls, perfect dance steps and the like, she finds ways to ignore or foil them. Rosie’s more interested in her animal friends (the gift to speak to animals being the most useful she received) and running around in the woods. But as her fateful birthday grows nearer, Rosie begins to realize that her life is tied up with that of the kingdom’s.

This book is very much character driven and largely focuses on Rosie growing up. While I did enjoy Rosie and some of the other characters, it didn’t feel like much happened. There wasn’t even a whole lot of dialog or conflict between characters.

The writing is also rambling in places, as it is with a number of McKinley’s first person narrated books. However, I feel that the writing style didn’t work as well for Spindle’s End – instead of being the voice and mind of a narrator, it just felt sporadic and info dumpy in places. Also, the POV shifted constantly throughout the book and wasn’t divided in any clear fashion.

I probably wouldn’t recommend this one unless you’re already a fan of fairy tale retellings or Robin McKinley – or if you want to see a more active princess at the heart of the story. For everyone else, I’d suggest picking up one of McKinley’s other books first. The Hero and the Crown isn’t a direct retelling but does have a feel of a fairy tale, and the writing is much smoother. ( )
  pwaites | Aug 1, 2014 |
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 |
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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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