Friday, June 29, 2012

Spindle's End: A Book Review

It's pretty much a given that if you hand me some sort of fantasy book I'm going to love it. Maybe I'm just wired that way? Or could it be my propensity to daydream? I mean, if you skim back over our blog, a majority of the posts are about one of us riding off into the sunset with (insert the name of handsome leading man here). And I know that many of you lovely readers feel the same way us Victorian Swag ladies feel when it comes to dashing male leads, especially when they are the unconventional sort. So, what does one get when one combines fantasy novels and unconventional, swoon-worthy leading men? Why, none other than a Robin McKinley novel! Without further ado, I give you: Spindle's End.

Every girl knows the story of Princess Aurora aka: Sleeping Beauty. A baby girl is born to a King and Queen, with hair as golden as sunlight, lips as red as rose, and eyes as blue as the sea. She is blessed by the fairies of the land with many magical gifts, but one fairy, the evil Maleficent is not invited to the princess's birthday and so she curses her to prick her finger on a spindle and die. Of course, the good fairies have one gift left to give and change the curse so that Aurora will merely fall into a deep sleep, from which love's true kiss can awaken her. 

Now let's throw all that out the window, and take our hats off to Robin McKinley, writer, and master story re-weaver extraordinaire. Princess Casta Albinia Allegra Dove Minerva Fidelia Aletta Blythe Domnia Delicia Aurelia Grace Isabel Griselda Gwyneth Pearl Ruby Coral Lily Iris Briar-Rose was born without much fan-fare. This being mostly due to the fact that her mother, the queen, had kept her pregnancy hidden from all the court councilors and fairies in the land, for fear that this long-awaited and anticipated moment might somehow go wrong. And so it is with great surprise that the little princess is born into the kingdom, and also great joy, for a princess will someday become a queen and it has been centuries since one has been born into that country where the air is thick with sticky magic and no object can be trusted to stay as it is, so you could often here people shouting, "Carrot, I command you to remain a carrot!" when cooking their mealtime stew. 

And though they grumbled all the way about not being told of the queen's pregnancy, the kingdom's councilors rejoiced at little Briar Rose's birth and promptly began planning her illustrious name-day. Riders were sent out all over the kingdom, inviting members of each region to come and witness the magnificent event. And the Queen and King invited 21 illustrious fairies to come and be godparents to the Princess. And so it was that Katriona, mere girl, and fairy's apprentice from Foggy Bottom found herself journeying north to the capital city. 

Perhaps if Kat had known all the ways in which fate was planning to take advantage of her, she would never have ventured out of the Gig, never have left the comfort of her Aunt's home, never have left her true love, Barder. But fate is a fickle, slippery thing, and so she found herself at the front of the crowd on the day of the grand event. She also found a mysterious man placing a magical amulet around her neck. And so it was when the evil fairy Pernicia appeared to place a curse on the innocent Princess, Kat also found herself rushing forward and grabbing the baby out of her cradle. A strange thing, since everyone else at the event seemed to have been struck immobile by Pernicia's forces. Everyone that is, except for the queen's lady-in-waiting and beloved fairy friend Sigil, who told Kat that she must take the baby and run, for there was no other way to save her from the terrible fate of certain death by pricking her finger on a spindle.

Many months were spent hiding and trekking through the dead of night with a baby clutched to her chest. The animals of the forest, whom Kat had the fairy-gift of talking to, always made sure she and the baby had food and a place to sleep. Finally, dirty and exhausted, the fairy and the princess found themselves knocking on the door the Kat's Aunt's cottage and being quickly ushered inside. The princess, now a simple peasant baby, was called Rosie and she grew up among Aunt and Kat's magic, talking to animals and wandering through the forest. 
Rosie cursed the long, curly golden locks and long eyelashes the fairies had bestowed upon her (although she had no idea these were fairy-godmother gifts, thinking simply she had been born with the blasted things). So she sheared off her hair and took to wearing breeches and boy's shirts. And a friendship or sorts began between her and the town blacksmith, Narl. Rosie's talent for talking to animals was especially useful when a rather ornery horse simply refused to be shod.

The princess who didn't know she was a princess grew and thrived with her makeshift family in Foggy Bottom. She was there when Kat and Barder finally were wed, and when their first children were born. She began an apprenticeship under Narl and was renowned for her skills as a "horse-whisperer" of sorts. She become best friends with her next-door neighbor Peony. But above all, she was allowed to live her life, never knowing the constant fear that lived within Katriona that one day her beloved Rosie would be taken from her. 

Now, I could tell you about the heart-flutters and tingles that Rosie began to experience around the gruff but handsome Narl. Or I could tell you about Ikor, the mysterious magician who had gifted Kat with her enchanted amulet decades ago at Rosie's name-day. Or about the uncanny resemblance between Rosie and Peony. Or the handsome new apprentice taken on by Narl that Peony simply couldn't take her eyes off of. 

But I shall be kind. Because, although many of you think you know well and good the story of the Sleeping Beauty and her fate, I say you do not. And I give the task of seeking out a copy of Spindle's End so that you may be enchanted by Rosie's story. Because on a scale of 1-10 this one rates a 15 WITH ALL THE FEELINGS.


  1. Robin McKinley is one of my favorite fantasy-fiction authors. She's simply brilliant. I have a library tab on my blog, and I've recommended her quite enthusiastically.

    1. Yes! I simply love her! I think The Blue Sword is my favorite. What about you?

  2. O. M. G. Must get a copy of this book! NOW. And... I'm already in love with Narl?