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Spindle's End Paperback – January 5, 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 220 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ace; Reprint edition (January 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441017673
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441017676
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (220 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,157,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
From my observations of the Amazon customer reviews, and conversations with my own acquaintances, I have the distinct impression that readers of Robin McKinley's novels can be divided into two categories: those who love both her older works (Beauty, et. al.) and the newer, and those who hate Deerskin and Rose Daughter. Let me say that I'm part of the former, but I think that Spindle's End will appeal to both groups.
Why? Just saying that it's a beautifully written novel isn't enough, I guess. It combines some elements familiar from early McKinley works (the unconventional hero(ine), the surprising spin on well-known stories) with aspects of the later (beautiful, lyrical prose, a surprising (yet satisfying) ending). But all of these elements, familiar as they are, combine to create a novel that is unique. If you've enjoyed anything by Robin McKinley, buy this book. You'll find something to love.
Also--and this isn't a part of the plot at all, so it's not really a spoiler--I was very happy to read that Lissar and Ossin are still happily raising fleethounds.
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Format: Hardcover
Robin McKinley established herself as a fairy tale author with her first book, "Beauty," over 20 years ago. Her growth as a writer is evident in her new tome, "Spindle's End." McKinley leaves behind Beauty and the Beast, which she has developed in two novels, to explore the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. The story developments are surprising at times but work well in her original treatment. The famous kiss which appears in the most popular versions of the tale is presented here with a new twist. The characters are charming and quirky. I was sorry when the book reached its conclusion and Rosie's story ended.
McKinley has returned to the lighter touch evident in "Beauty" so this book can be recommended to readers of all ages. Books from McKinley are often years in the waiting for her fans. This book was well worth the wait. For a completely different treatment of the same tale, I also recommend Jane Yolen's "Briar Rose."
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Format: Hardcover
If you've read McKinley's Beauty, than you're already familiar with her ability to create the most wonderful characters with her lyrical prose. As in Beauty, the heroine in Spindle's End is a completely drawn character whose courage, intelligence, kindness and humor deviate from the stereotypical pretty princess with nothing to do but be rescued. The story is magical, the supporting characters (especially the wonderful animals) make you wish you knew them yourself and the plot keeps you engrossed throughout the novel. McKinley has an amazing talent to take what is old and make it fresh without abadoning the traditional tale entirely. Unlike Deerskin (which is another fabulous and somewhat misunderstood McKinley piece,) Spindle's End can be enjoyed by all ages. Her writing is colorful and inventive without being wordy or dense. The author's spin on the wake-up kiss and the happily-ever after-ending may not be standard, but they are satisfying. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Parents - read it with your child...you'll both enjoy it (and you can help them out with some of the bigger words.) If you enjoy Jane Yolen or Patricia McKillip, you'll definitely like McKinley.
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Format: Hardcover
I intended to like this book from the moment I heard it was coming out. I suppose I'm somewhat dense, since my sister had to realize that the title "Spindle's End" probably had to do with one of our favorite fairy tales, Sleeping Beauty. Now that I've read it, I can't say I'm disappointed, exactly....But for being a new story, it seemed vaguely familiar.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it immensely. The reading was enjoyable, the plot suspenseful. There were funny and sad moments, and the new, somewhat conversational tone of "voice" McKinley uses is quite wonderful. (If you notice, since she's been in England, her expressions and spelling have become decidedly more British.) As always, her plotting and pacing are superb, and her nods to other novels and stories brought a smile to my face. It took me a while to realize why such a satisfying story left me feeling...vaguely DISsatsified; I think it's because it was a little too familiar.
All of you reading this should know by now that this is based on Sleeping Beauty, so I won't bore you with plot details. The main character, Rosie, was lovelable and suitably un-princesslike; but then, so was Harry (of "The Blue Sword"), Beauty of "Rose Daughter," and especially Aerin (of "The Hero and the Crown"). I don't object in the least to having a strong female protagonist -- indeed, that's partly why I love McKinley's books. But in this case, I felt always a little distant from Rosie, possibly because we don't get her viewpoint until halfway through the book (but not even at a chapter break, which was one of the occasionally awkward viewpoint shifts). (Incidentally, I also felt that for as long as we had Katriona's viewpoint, we never really got to know her.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
"Spindle's End," first published in 2000 is Robin McKinley's novelization of the 'Sleeping Beauty' fairy tale. Inventive characterization is this author's hallmark, and McKinley reimagines and reinvigorates Sleeping Beauty as a princess named Rosie who is cursed to die on her 21st birthday after pricking her finger on a spindle. On her Naming Day, after a very bad fairy named Pernicia delivers the curse, the infant princess is kidnapped by the down-to-earth Katriona (okay, she's a fairy, too, but not in the sense of 'airy fairy') who raises the disguised princess in the distant farming hamlet of Foggy Bottom. Eventually Rosie apprentices herself to a blacksmith, discovers that she can talk to animals, and befriends a girl named Peony.
Peony is actually much more of a traditional Sleeping Beauty--meek, beautiful, skilled in the feminine arts, and somewhat passive. Rosie is an active, callused horse doctor who ultimately takes on the traditional prince's role, with the help of her friends Katriona, the blacksmith, and some very remarkable animals.
Have no fear, "Spindle's End" is not a feminist rant. Men get some very nice walk-on roles and the only really evil personage is Pernicia who hovers threateningly throughout the novel:
"Perhaps I shall even come to her, in secret, tonight...and press her tiny soft hand against the spindle end..."
McKinley has created a densely magicked universe, shading over into cutesy only occasionally. Unfortunately most of the shading was in the first couple of chapters and I almost got clogged by the treacle and stopped reading. I was glad I didn't because this is a marvelous, non-wimpy reworking of the usual 'beautiful woman can do nothing for herself but wait passively for handsome prince' fairy tale.
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