Phoenixfalls's Reviews > Spindle's End

Spindle's End by Robin McKinley
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Mar 12, 10

bookshelves: animals, fairy-tale, fantasy, fantasy-romance, high-fantasy, robin-mckinley, young-adult, female-author
Read in November, 2009 — I own a copy, read count: 2

This is one of McKinley's strongest works to date, and it makes me laugh to think that she essentially wrote it on a dare. From what she's said on her website, she had no love for the sleeping beauty myth -- after all, the princess spends it completely useless and out of the action, exactly opposite McKinley's usual heroines. The story she crafted in response to the fairy tale beautifully recasts the outside of the tale (the curse, the fairy godmothers, the spelled sleep, and rose hedge) with a new interior, upending the usual story into one in which the princess is a real person that the reader cares deeply for -- and a person who is instrumental in her own salvation, rather than a bystander to it.

But beyond the female empowerment coming-of-age tale are the glimpses of depth all of McKinley's best stories have: explorations of what family means, and the necessity of acting with courage and compassion even when it may leave you vulnerable to dark forces. The moments I loved best about this novel are when McKinley shows us that even the best ending, the one that leaves everyone happiest, may still have unexpected sharp edges, little bits of pain that come with gaining a great victory at the cost of something you didn't necessarily value in the first place. The unexpected resolution to the story (even more unexpected because it continues to remain true to the outside form of the sleeping beauty fairy tale) is brilliant and winning and just the tiniest bit bittersweet.

Even laying aside how wonderful the novel ends, it is a joy from start to finish. It has more humor than any other McKinley work, and the Gig (and Woodwold within it) is certainly one of McKinley's most delightful worlds. For those who have read her obsessively (as I have) there are even hints that this is Damar, the world of The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword, many generations later, and it is implied that the princess' mother comes from the kingdom that Lissar settled in in Deerskin. On rereading, I am even further convinced that this is one of my favorite novels of all time.
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