Pros:It's McKinley, which means fantasy with a twist.
Cons:The style gets annoying and bogged down now and then, enough to break the rhythm.
The Bottom Line: Good, but still not as great as McKinley's earliest novels. Worth the read for a patient (and forgiving) reader.
Smarting after reading Rose Daughter, Ms. McKinley's second retelling of Beauty and the Beast, I was a touch hesitant about reading this one. Not that I don't enjoy her work, I do, very much! But the stories have been taking darker and more unpleasant turns since Deerskin, and I've noticed that I'm trying to stay away from very sad stories of late.
Recommend this product?
As you might have guessed from the title, this one deals with the classic of Sleeping Beauty. Set in a land where magic occurs more often than not, in a land that doesn't have a name, the story is fairly traditional, starting off with the story of the king and queen that have been longing for a child, and when the blessed heir is born, it is a princess. Jubiliant, the king has invited everyone for the child's name-day, to see the bestowing of her one-and-twenty names (poor creature, can you imagine the monogramming?), and out of the host of fairy godmothers attending, there is one malicious one, the fairy Pernicia, who has a hatchet to grind against the royal family, and the infant princess in particular.
Among the gathering is a young woman, Katriona, a villiage girl who was the chosen of her village to attend. Having received a charm from someone else in the crowd, Katriona is as surprised as anyone else when she rushes forward to save the child from the curse. And away we go into the story.
Now, there's some of the traditional bits. Of course we know that the princess, young Rosie, as we get to know her, will be saved in some fashion. If she wasn't, she wouldn't be a princess, and this wouldn't be a fairy tale.
I'm not going to give away all of the details here. let's just say that the ending isn't quite a traditional ending, we get mixed up heroines, brave and steadfast animal friends to help along, a bevy of fairy-folk all over the place to assist and guide and protect.
And by the end of the book -- I was exhausted. There's so much detail that the narrative gets swamped with it, and it's a real push to get back to the story itself. The characters, save for Rosie and Katriona and her aunt, are rather two-dimensional. Worst of all is the habit that McKinley has of (doing this); she's trying to break that fourth wall with the reader and draw them into the story, but its simply too jarring to get through. Once in a while is bearable; however, after pages and pages of this, it's enough to make one throw the book across the room.
Which I did on several occansions.
End result: interesting story, valiant try at an upgrade, but so excessive it flails and suffocates itself. Go back to McKinley's earlier works if you need a fix, this one isn't worth the effort. Try The Door in the Hedge, it's much more satisfying.
One last grumble of despair here: if they must adapt the classic fairy tales, it's always something like Beauty and the Beast, or Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella. Why don't they try ones like La Blanche Chatte, or The Sultan of the Black Isles? Something different!