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
From Publishers Weekly
With a protagonist known mostly for being gorgeous and drowsy, Sleeping Beauty may seem an odd choice for a retelling by the author responsible for inventing the staunch, action-oriented heroines of Beauty and The Hero and the Crown. But as Newbery-medalist McKinley embroiders and expands upon this tale, readers quickly will see that she has created a character (indeed, a cast of characters) worthy of these fictional predecessors. When the evil fairy Pernicia lays her seemingly fatal curse upon the infant princess, the royal child's nanny entrusts the baby to Katriona--an orphan brought up by her powerful fairy aunt--to rear in the safety of her distant, cloistered village. In one of the many sequences that endow this novel with mythic grandeur, Katriona and her charge travel surreptitiously through the fields and woods, while the female animals of the countryside (vixens, a she-bear and countless others) suckle the royal baby to keep her alive. This unorthodox diet may be the reason the princess--whom Katriona and her aunt call Rosie--can communicate with all creatures. Unaware of her royal heritage (and bored by fairy-tale fripperies), Rosie makes a best friend of Peony, the wainwright's niece, and becomes an apprentice to Narl, the kind but uncommunicative village blacksmith. When the princess's true identity is finally revealed, and the fate of the realm hangs in the balance, Rosie, Narl and Peony fight a true battle royal to defeat Pernicia's schemes. Dense with magical detail and all-too-human feeling, this luscious, lengthy novel is almost impossible to rush through. Additional treats include a vast array of believable, authentically animal-like characters, complete with inventive, evocative names (a cat called Flinx, dogs that answer to Zogdob and Throstle, and so forth). By the end of this journey through Rosie and Katriona's enchanted land--so thick with magic dust that good housekeeping remains a constant challenge--readers will feel that they know it as well as their own backyards. Ages 12-up. (May)
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