A high 3.5 stars. This review is also available on my blog, Read Till Dawn.
This is a very . . . strange book.
My mother read it before I did, and she handed it off to me with the pensive remark that “it’s like an older Gail Carson Levine.” I can sort of see what she meant, the way McKinley took such a traditional fairytale and spun a completely new story out of it, but under the surface I don’t think there are really many similarities at all between, say, Levine’s Ella Enchanted and Fairest duo and Spindle’s End.
For one thing, McKinley is a lot less concerned about conveying the plot through dialogue. Pages upon pages go by with little to no conversations taking place; instead everything is narrated. This doesn’t really matter much, because her writing is really smooth, but it did take a little bit of adjusting just because I wasn’t used to this style of storytelling.
Anyway, part of me wishes that the ending was a little more normal. I obviously can’t go into much detail, because that would ruin it for people who are going to read it, but let’s just say that things pretty much completely jump off of the tracks by the ending. This is most definitely not your typical Sleeping Beauty retelling, and that’s both a positive and a negative. I was in the mood for something truly original, so it worked out well, but part of me is still a romantic at heart: I can’t help but want all retellings to stick to certain fairytale ground rules the way Levine’s do.
I’m very glad that I finally read a Robin McKinley book, after all of the wonderful things I heard about them, and I definitely see why her writing is so highly praised. She’s a talented writer, and in this case at least she was extremely creative with her story. Now I simply have to read another one of her books, to see if she follows some sort of pattern or if all of her books are all as random and creative as this one was.