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.