Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley

Once upon a time a book-loving sixth grader met a generous intelligent librarian. This librarian, wise in the ways of tween girls, introduced our heroine to the world of fantasy books. Recognizing the dreams of young girls to be princesses and marry princes the librarian offered the young girl Robin McKinley’s books, in particular The Hero and the Crown.

Across the miles and years a tween boy entered the realm of fantasy reading the classic tale of Robin Hood as retold by Robin McKinley in The Outlaws of Sherwood.

Time passed, the two met and shared a love of good fantasy, Robin McKinley having faded into the background of other authors and works. Until the day when our heroine brought home Rose Daughter thrilled to read a new book by the person who introduced her to fantasy. Her husband (and very own prince) saw the book at home and exclaimed, “I remember Robin McKinley. She was …” and our heroine, older, wiser, and no longer desiring the life of a princess finished his sentence, “…one of the first fantasy authors I ever read.” And so ends our story…

Yes, I’m a cheeseball. But yes, it’s true. Both my hubby and I first delved into fantasy reading Robin McKinley’s books. She is the idyllic fantasy author for tween readers. Her stories offer romance and adventure and magic but they are innocent and appealing. Many of her works are retellings of famous fairy tales and Rose Daughter is no exception. As a matter of fact it is the second book by McKinley to retell the story of Beauty and the Beast (the first being her well-loved and recognized Beauty.)

In Rose Daughter McKinley works all the details of the infamous story of Beauty and the Beast into a nuanced version which focuses around the importance of the rose. In this version Beauty is one of three daughters, her special talent being gardening. When she travels to the Beast’s palace she focuses on bringing his rose garden, housed in a large greenhouse, back to life.

The story was intimately familiar but yet novel enough to not be boring. Robin McKinley has an incredibly vivid descriptive writing style without laboring over too many details. All in all, Rose Daughter reminded me of my introduction to the world of good, innocent (romantic) fantasy. A great light summer read.

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