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Spindle's End
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Spindle's End
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The evil fairy Pernicia has set a curse on Princess Briar-Rose: she is fated to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into an endless, poisoned sleep. Katriona, a young fairy,...
The evil fairy Pernicia has set a curse on Princess Briar-Rose: she is fated to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into an endless, poisoned sleep. Katriona, a young fairy,...
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  • The evil fairy Pernicia has set a curse on Princess Briar-Rose: she is fated to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into an endless, poisoned sleep. Katriona, a young fairy, kidnaps the princess in order to save her; she and her aunt raise the child in their small village, where no one knows her true identity. But Pernicia is looking for her, intent on revenge for a defeat four hundred years old. Robin McKinley's masterful version of Sleeping Beauty is, like all of her work, a remarkable literary feat.

 

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  • From the book Chapter I

    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.)

    The best way to do it was to have a fairy as a member of your household, because she (it was usually a she) could lay a finger on the kettle just as it came to a boil (absentminded fairies could often be recognised by a pad of scar-tissue on the finger they favoured for kettle-cleaning) and murmur a few counter-magical words. There would be a tiny inaudible thock, like a seed-pod bursting, and the water would stay water for another week or (maybe) ten days.

    De-magicking a kettle was much too little and fussy and frequent a job for any professional fairy to be willing to be hired to do it, so if you weren't related to one you had to dig up a root of the dja vine, and dry it, and grate it, producing a white powder rather like plaster dust or magic, and add a pinch of that to your kettle once a week. More often than that would give everyone in the household cramp. You could tell the households that didn't have a fairy by the dja vines growing over them. Possibly because they were always having their roots disturbed, djas developed a reputation for being tricky to grow, and prone to sudden collapse; fortunately they rerooted easily from cuttings. "She'd give me her last dja root" was a common saying about a good friend.

    People either loved that country and couldn't imagine living anywhere else, or hated it, left it as soon as they could, and never came back. If you loved it, you loved coming over the last hill before your village one day in early autumn and hearing the corn-field singing madrigals, and that day became a story you told your grandchildren, the way in other countries other grandparents told the story of the day they won the betting pool at the pub, or their applecake won first place at the local fete. If you lived there, you learned what you had to do, like putting a pinch of dried dja vine in your kettle once a week, like asking your loaf of bread to remain a loaf of bread before you struck it with a knife. (The people of this country had developed a reputation among outsiders for being unusually pious, because of the number of things they appeared to mutter a blessing over before they did them; but in most cases this was merely the asking of things it was safer to ask to remain nonmagical first, while work or play or food preparation or whatever was being got on with. Nobody had ever heard of a loaf of bread turning into a flock of starlings for anyone they knew, but the nursery tale was well known, and in that country it didn't pay to take chances. The muttered words were usually only some phrase such as "Bread, stay bread" or, in upper-class households, "Bread, please oblige me," which was a less wise form, since an...

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 1, 2002
    With a protagonist known mostly for being gorgeous and drowsy, Sleeping Beauty may seem an odd choice for a retelling by the author responsible for inventing the staunch, action-oriented heroines of Beauty and The Hero and the Crown. But as Newbery-medalist McKinley embroiders and expands upon this tale, readers quickly will see that she has created a character (indeed, a cast of characters) worthy of these fictional predecessors. When the evil fairy Pernicia lays her seemingly fatal curse upon the infant princess, the royal child's nanny entrusts the baby to Katriona--an orphan brought up by her powerful fairy aunt--to rear in the safety of her distant, cloistered village. In one of the many sequences that endow this novel with mythic grandeur, Katriona and her charge travel surreptitiously through the fields and woods, while the female animals of the countryside (vixens, a she-bear and countless others) suckle the royal baby to keep her alive. This unorthodox diet may be the reason the princess--whom Katriona and her aunt call Rosie--can communicate with all creatures. Unaware of her royal heritage (and bored by fairy-tale fripperies), Rosie makes a best friend of Peony, the wainwright's niece, and becomes an apprentice to Narl, the kind but uncommunicative village blacksmith. When the princess's true identity is finally revealed, and the fate of the realm hangs in the balance, Rosie, Narl and Peony fight a true battle royal to defeat Pernicia's schemes. Dense with magical detail and all-too-human feeling, this luscious, lengthy novel is almost impossible to rush through. Additional treats include a vast array of believable, authentically animal-like characters, complete with inventive, evocative names (a cat called Flinx, dogs that answer to Zogdob and Throstle, and so forth). By the end of this journey through Rosie and Katriona's enchanted land--so thick with magic dust that good housekeeping remains a constant challenge--readers will feel that they know it as well as their own backyards. Ages 12-up.

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