Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “fairytale”

Funkyfacecat’s #CBR4 Review #22: Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley

So. Behind. But am finally on holiday with a guilt-free conscience due to handing in a piece of work the other day, so…laissez les bon temps rouler. (I am also currently very temporarily in France, which I find quite exciting).

I’ve loved Robin McKinley’s work since I read The Blue Sword at the tender age of 11 (there’s a heroine who’s confused and lost and not entirely good-tempered and learns to sword-fight on horseback very quickly and it’s generally awesome!). She is one of my top five favourite authors, but I haven’t read all of her books. And this is because rather than ordering them all at once from Amazon or some other tax-dodging outfit, I prefer to stumble across them, in secondhand bookshops from Helsinki to Florida and friends’ bookshelves and left behind in youth hostels.

Spindle’s End is a riff on Sleeping Beauty. It begins with a long-awaited birth and a christening and a vengeful fairy left uninvited, but then takes on a new twist as Rosie is smuggled away in the aftermath of the fairy’s curse by Katriona, a girl who can talk to animals and who lives in a tiny village with her aunt who is a good fairy. Rosie grows up into an intelligent tomboy, seemingly safe around animals and common villagers, but the evil Pernicia spares no effort in trying to track her down…There are spells and enchantments and glamours, but also farm animals and cooking and babies. Fairies function in a similar way in this particular kingdom as witches do in other fantasy stories – sort of combined midwifes/healers and potential tricksters.

Pernicia’s motivations are left quite cloudy – she is generally a force of evil and seeks revenge for some slight centuries ago, and the choices involved in the ending of the novel is a bit confusing, for me, anyway. McKinley’s work mixes the romantic and the realistic, the eldritch and the heimlich with ease. Spindle’s End is not up there with McKinley’s most innovative or best (which I would say are Sunshine, The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown, and Deerskin) but it’s generally very good – a comfort read with occasional flashes of excitement.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #90: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

September is twelve, and lives in Omaha. Her father went away to war, and her mother works in a factory. One evening, when she is doing the dishes, the Green Wind shows up at her kitchen window on a flying leopard and invites her to come along on adventures to Fairyland. But while Fairyland is a delightful and magical place (naturally), all is not fun and games. The former queen, Mallow, has been replaced by the capricious Marquess, a girl not much older than September.

While on a mission to try to retrieve a very special spoon from the Marquess for some nice witches who assisted her along the way, September is sent on a quest to the woods of Autumn. If she doesn’t fetch a very precious artifact for the Marquess and return in a week, the Marquess will hurt not only September’s new friends and companions, the Wyverary (a wyvern whose father was a library) and the boy Saturday, but generally make the inhabitants of Fairyland suffer.

So September has no choice but to go off questing. During her adventures in Fairyland, she meets a whole host of interesting creatures (like the aforementioned witches, gnomes, a soap golem and more), she sacrifices her shadow to save a child, she faces her Death, very valiantly tries to avoid eating Fairy food, and learns all manner of important and significant lessons. Will she manage to find Queen Mallow’s sword before The Marquess’ time limit runs out? What will happen to her and her friends if she fails?

Clearly inspired by Victorian children’s stories like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan, this book is a wonderful story, which never talks down to kids, and makes me wish I had children of my own to read it to. Having read Valente’s Deathless before this, I knew that she had a wonderful way with words, but the brilliant way she constructs the story in The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (surely the longest children’s book title out there) took my breath away.

September is a great protagonist, impulsive and headstrong like 12-year-olds should be, and described as quite heartless (as children’s hearts grow as they age) but also brave and loyal and affectionate. She’s intelligent and knows quite a bit about how things must happen in stories, having read many of them herself. Her companions are also great, and I’m very much looking forward to reading the rest of the series, the second of which was published in hardback earlier this month.

Cross posted on my blog.

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