by Robin McKinley
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. (It didn’t have to be anything scary or unpleasant, like snakes or slime, especially in a cheerful household – magic tended to reflect the atmosphere of the place in which it found itself – but if you want a cup of tea, a cup of lavender-and-gold pansies or ivory thimbles is unsatisfactory. And while the pansies – put dry in a vase – would probably last a day, looking like ordinary pansies, before they went greyish-dun and collapsed into magic dust, something like an ivory thimble would begin to smudge and crumble as soon as you picked it up.)
This is another well-loved book. It’s a vacation book – I always buy at least one book on vacation; this one was purchased in Traverse City, Michigan, in September of 2003, and has probably been read at least ten times since then. I think I fell in love with this book because almost the entire first paragraph is a parentheses. As a parentheses addict myself, I love it. If parentheses annoy you, steer clear of this book, as it is riddled with them.
What I love about McKinley is her ability to create a completely different world, yet one to which I can relate and one that I can understand almost immediately. Although new rules reveal themselves as the story wends on, she doesn’t make any giant illogical leaps. I also love the way that this story encompasses the entire 21 years of Sleeping Beauty’s life pre-spindle, but does it in a way that flows and is easy to read. The book starts focused on Katriona, who becomes Princess Rosie’s foster-mother, but seamlessly flows into a focus more on Rosie when she is old enough to think interesting thoughts. McKinley also does a wonderful job with the animals – although some characters can understand what animals are saying, it doesn’t make the animals less animal-like – it almost makes them more so. (Like the movie Up where we can hear the dogs talking, and what do they say? Exactly what we would expect dogs to say!)
I am not a 100% fan of McKinley; some of her stories aren’t my style. But Spindle’s End is one of my very favorite books, and if you’re a fantasy fan and haven’t read this one, I highly recommend it.