Spindle’s End

McKinley, Robin. Spindle’s End (2000). 422 Pages. Firebird. $6.99

Princess Briar-Rose would have been special even had her parents not been barren for so long before her birth. She was a Crown-Princess, to become the first queen in nearly 400 years. However, the evil fairy Pernicia has been waiting for a queen for a very long time. On the princess’s name-day, Pernicia takes the opportunity to curse the child; she will prick her finger and die on her 21st birthday.

Shocked, and a bit overwhelmed, nobody reacts but the fairy Katriona, a young woman from far away Foggy Bottom. With the help of another fairy, Katriona whisks the princess away, hoping to hide her, and protect her with “ordinariness.” This gives Rosie the time to grow up, into a strong young woman who has a chance against the dark fate she faces.

First Lines

The magic in that country was so thick and tenacious that it settled over the land like chalk-dust and over floors and shelves like slightly sticky plaster-dust. (Housecleaners in that country earned unusually good wages.) If you lived in that country, you had to de-scale your kettle of its encrustation of magic at least once a week, because if you didn’t, you might find yourself pouring hissing snakes or pond slime into your teapot instead of water.

Thoughts:

Everyone knows Sleeping Beauty. The infant princess, cursed by an evil fairy, saved by a good one. Doomed to prick her finger and die, but not truly. Spindle’s End is simultaneously Sleeping Beauty, and its own tale, and that is what makes it so wonderful. Rosie is anything but the weak-willed, doomed princess who is so often present in this tale. Katriona is far from the silly fairies of Disney fame. The two of them transform the story from a classic into something new, and a bit exciting.

One of the more interesting themes in this book is family, and how everything is about love, rather than blood. Katriona loves Rosie as her own, wanting nothing more than to keep Rosie forever, instead of having to give her back to the royal family, or lose her to the curse. Rosie feels loved, and accepted, but just a little different, a little outside of her family. And the royal family, as distant as they are, clearly love Rosie, too. Peony and Rosie are closer than sisters, the sort of friends who are together through everything.

There are many supporting characters who play a major role in either world-building, or plot-moving. There are very few characters who do not make multiple appearances, and every single character serves a purpose, which can be difficult when writing about an entire kingdom.

I find myself re-reading Spindle’s End periodically, enjoying it in a slightly different way each time. There are a few surprises, the first time, a few details you may have missed in the second read, a few more in the third, and each time, it becomes a richer experience as you get the chance to savor favorite scenes. It’s an enduring favorite, which of course gets a 5/5.

4 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Fairy Tales Retold, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

4 responses to “Spindle’s End

  1. Ela

    I think this might the best of McKinley’s fairy-tale re-tellings – there’s so much depth to it, and I love the setting and the whole world in which the characters live. Also, Rosie is a great heroine, but all the characters have their own parts to play, and do so with conviction.

    I need to read this one again!

    Like

    • I do really love that every single character has an agenda, or a plan, or a theory, or something purposeful, and yet it doesn’t get confusing or convoluted at any point. That can be tricky, and is often done badly.

      If you do re-read it, enjoy!

      (Fixed your post for you.)

      Like

  2. Meh. I wanted to love this, and I expected it to be something like Beauty, my favorite McKinley book, but I find it a bit boring. I like Rosie and I like the blacksmith whose name escapes me, and I like the way the story ends. The middle bits just don’t thrill me.

    Like

    • I think, for me, it’s the middle bits that I love the best. Not all of them, but some of them. I especially love Rosie and Narl (the blacksmith whose name escapes you).

      I do really, really like Beauty, and I really, really like Rose Daughter, but the two sort of blend for me, and I expect things which happen in Rose Daughter to happen in Beauty and vice-versa.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s