SFF Author: Robin McKinley

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Beauty: We are divided on this one!

Beauty by Robin McKinley

I hate writing negative reviews, especially for books that are obviously both loved and respected. Beauty appeals to a lot of people, and you may well want to disregard my opinion and go with the majority. But for what it’s worth, I can’t quite bring myself to recommend Beauty for those of you out there who enjoy reading novels in the fairytale genre.

To McKinley’s credit, Beauty was written before the sudden demand in retold/fractured/fleshed-out fairytales.


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The Door in the Hedge: Nothing exceptional

The Door in the Hedge by Robin McKinley

Despite an interesting title and a beguiling title page, I honestly found nothing exceptional about Robin McKinley’s collection of four fairytales. Whether her stories are original or retold, they are rather dull, predictable, and written with long-winded language that makes for sluggish reading. All are centered on the interactions between this world and that of Faerieland — or to be more specific, the interactions between young princesses and the inhabitants of Faerieland. None of these girls are individuals, instead they are cast straight from the princess stereotype and all the stories end on a slightly sickly-sweet note with each dilemma that the girls’


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The Blue Sword: Strong female lead, interesting moral conundrum

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

This, my friends, is how young adult fantasy is done. In The Blue Sword, Robin McKinley has created a world out of whole cloth and polished it until it shines. Or in this case, until it is a dusty desert full of horse riding warriors, a dwindling magic, demon barbarians invading from the north, and civilized white men invading from across the ocean. McKinley is a master of prose, and this book has stood the test of time for almost 25 years now.


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The Hero and the Crown: This award-winning YA has aged well

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

Aerin cannot remember a time when she did not know the story. The tale of how her mother, a witchwoman from the north, had ensorcelled her father, the king, and bewitched him into marrying her so that she could bear a son to inherit the kingdom. When Aerin was born, her mother turned her face to the wall, and died of grief. Rejected by many of the royal court for her suspect lineage, and feared by the average person for the same reason, Aerin struggles to find her place in the court,


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A Knot in the Grain: An engaging collection of five fantasies

A Knot in the Grain by Robin McKinley

I’m not sure if I bought this fantasy short story collection by Robin McKinley when I first saw it in the mid-1990s because McKinley was one of my favorite fantasy authors or because I was entranced by the cover art on the paperback, with the colorful contrast between the girl in a brilliant sapphire dress and the bright gold background of buttercups. Actually, at that time I was pretty much automatically buying everything McKinley wrote. Regardless, I very much enjoyed the collection of five fantasy short stories,


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The Outlaws of Sherwood: A strong contender in an overstuffed genre

The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley

Robin Longbow, a lowly apprentice to the forester of Nottingham Forest, is on the way to Nottingham fair when he is waylaid by bullies. After he accidentally kills one of them, he is forced to flee and go into hiding. If he’s discovered by the sheriff of Nottingham, he’ll be hung by the regent who is sitting in for King Richard the Lionheart while he’s away fighting in Palestine.

But Robin’s friends Much and Marian see Robin’s exile as an opportunity to strike back at the regent and his Norman allies.


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Deerskin: McKinley seduces us

Deerskin by Robin McKinley

Robin McKinley sure knows how to use the English language. We are in her spell from the beginning. Deerskin commences with Lissar’s nurse telling her a fairy tale — but the fairy tale is the story of how Lissar’s larger-than-life parents met. She is told from the very cradle what paragons her mother and father are, and yet she herself is ignored by them. McKinley seduces us with the the magical kingdom’s rarefied beauty and glamour — and also the coldness and rot at its core.


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Rose Daughter: McKinley’s second rendition of Beauty and the Beast

Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley

Can a beast who loves roses so much be so very terrible?

It’s been years since I read and reviewed Robin McKinley’s Beauty, her first rendition of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. Despite the book’s popularity, I wasn’t particularly moved by it, and ended my review saying that I was looking forward to experiencing her second retelling of the same story, seeing how an author would approach the same material the second time around.

Well,


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Spindle’s End: A light, sweet, unhurried fantasy

Reposting to include Tadiana’s review.

Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley

Spindle’s End (2000) is Robin McKinley’s delightful and very loose retelling of the Sleeping Beauty (Little Briar Rose) fairy tale.

On the princess’s naming day, a bad fairy declares a curse, stating that, on her 21st birthday, the princess will prick her finger on a spindle and die. In an attempt to thwart the curse, a good fairy named Katriona takes the princess to live with her aunt in a swampy region called Foggy Bottom.


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Sunshine: Rebecca throws in the towel

Sunshine by Robin McKinley

I do not know what I have given you tonight…

My strange and frustrating relationship with the books of Robin McKinley continues. Pretend that there’s a picture hanging on your wall. Everyone who sees it raves about it: the colours, the texture, the composition, the style. People want copies of it so that they can pass it around. Everyone loves staring at it for hours on end. But as try as you might, and as much as you can recognize the skill that went into painting it,


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Chalice: Beauty and the Beast for young adults

Chalice by Robin McKinley

A beautiful fairytale for the YA reader, Chalice is a very loose reinterpretation of a Beauty and the Beast story. Mirasol is a beekeeper who is forced to become the Chalice for her demesne after the previous Chalice and Master are killed in an accident. Her role is to bind her abused land back together and to the new Master, a Priest of Fire, a being who isn’t quite human and can burn both the land and human flesh with the barest touch.


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Fire: Five enjoyable stories by McKinley & Dickinson

Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits by Robin McKinley & Peter Dickinson

Let me start by saying I’ve never been much for short stories. It’s not that they can’t be well done, and I admit that it takes a huge talent to do them well, but I usually find myself frustrated and wanting more. Probably because I am used to reading full-length novels. That being said, I enjoyed reading Fire. There are five stories, two by Robin McKinley and three by Peter Dickinson.


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Pegasus: Pages and pages of nothingness

Pegasus by Robin McKinley

Humans came to this land generations ago. There they formed an alliance with the pegasi, defending them from evil creatures in exchange for shelter in Pegasus lands. As a sign of the alliance, members of the royal families of both races are magically bound together when the human comes of age. These ceremonies are performed by the Speakers, the only humans who can understand Pegasus speech, until at the binding of Princess Sylvi and Ebon, when they discover they can understand each other perfectly. This threatens to upset the balance of power between the two kingdoms and break the Speakers’ hold on power,


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Shadows: Young Adult fantasy at its best and worst

Shadows by Robin McKinley

Shadows has all the beloved elements of a Robin McKinley novel: the strong female lead, the endearing team of animals and talismans, the never-quite-articulated magic, the laconic romance, and the tendency to give characters one-syllable names. For those familiar pieces alone, Shadows is worth reading. But McKinley’s horizons are smaller than they used to be, and fit more easily into the bounds of young adult fiction.

When we meet Maggie, she’s a sulky,


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