5 Rated Books 6 Rated Books Book Reviews Joint Review Old School Wednesdays

Old School Wednesdays Readalong: Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley

Old School Wednesdays is a weekly Book Smuggler feature. We came up with the idea towards the end of 2012, when both Ana and Thea were feeling exhausted from the never-ending inundation of New and Shiny (and often over-hyped) books. What better way to snap out of a reading fugue than to take a mini-vacation into the past?

Old School Wednesdays Final

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In March 2013, we asked YOU for your favorite old school suggestions – and the response was so overwhelmingly awesome, we decided to compile a goodreads shelf, an ongoing database, AND a monthly readalong/book club.

This month’s OSW Readalong pick is Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley

For every readalong book, we’ll structure this a little bit differently than our usual Joint Review fare – first, we’ll give our (brief!) opinions regarding the book, then we’ll tackle some discussion questions. Finally, we’ll ask YOU to join in.


Title: Spindle’s End

Author: Robin McKinley

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Fairytale retelling

Spindle's End

Publisher: Penguin Group
Publication date: First published 2002
Paperback: 432 pages

All the creatures of the forest and field and riverbank knew the infant was special. She was the princess, spirited away from the evil fairy Pernicia on her name-day. But the curse was cast: Rosie was fated to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a poisoned sleep-a slumber from which no one would be able to rouse her.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone novel, but connected to other books by the author.

How did we get this book: Bought

Format (e- or p-): Print + Ebook


Ana’s Take: I love fairytale retellings and I have enjoyed all the books I’ve read by Robin McKinley so far. As such I had high hopes for Spindle’s End and in many, many ways those hopes were met: I loved the way that magic is something that is less explicated and more…intuited. I loved the female characters very much and the strong relationships between them. But the book as a whole, suffers for its lack of focus, for being too prolonged and for a completely obscure and confusing ending. Ultimately, Spindle’s End was a mixed bag for me and it never lived up to its promising start.

Thea’s Take: I have a mixed experience with Robin McKinley. Sometimes, her books are utterly amazing, flawless works of fantasy that blow my mind, and sometimes I just don’t click with her writing and I’m left underwhelmed. I was tentatively optimistic about Spindle’s End because from everything I have heard of the book, it seems that this would be the Robin McKinley I DO like. And… it was. Sort of. I loved many things about Spindle’s End – the nature of magic, the discussion of fate and curses, the main characters, especially – but the book was also unnecessarily bloated, and I agree with Ana about the strange ending and lack of focus. I still liked the book, but it could have been great and instead it was just ok.

Discussion Questions:

1. Spindle’s End is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty – with a unique magical twist. What did you think of this particular retelling of the fable, and how did it stack up to other iterations you may have read or seen?

Thea: Confession time: Sleeping Beauty is one of my least favorite fairy tales. I think it’s because of all the fairy tale princesses, she’s the one with the least agency – blessed and cursed from birth, Briar Rose is sheltered, protected, hunted and then rescued by others her entire life. (Conversely, I’ve always been fascinated with the Evil Fairy in the tale – Maleficent is so much more interesting than Aurora.) That said, I have read a few science fiction adaptations of Sleeping Beauty that I have enjoyed, which play with this concept of agency and give the sleeping young woman a deeper well of character. A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan is one of the best books I’ve read since starting this blog, and I love this heartbreaking, futuristic story about a young girl and the parents who made her sleep for so long. Similarly, Karen Healey’s futuristic YA dystopia When We Wake is another great take on the Sleeping Beauty fable (and author Karen Healey has written some excellent posts about the fairy tale and the big idea behind her book).

Of course, the most obvious Sleeping Beauty (at least in my mind) is the Disney version. It was my introduction to the fairy tale, and a cartoon that I liked for the songs and the pretty dresses, and… MALEFICENT. But Sleeping Beauty is weirdly absent for so much of the movie and doesn’t ever become a character in her story; the fairies who watch over her (or the one who curses her) carry the narrative bulk of the movie. Then, there’s the actual source fairy tale – which I read when I got a little older – and holy crap, guys. The variation of Sleeping Beauty in which she’s awoken by her twins – because she’s been raped by her prince charming and has given birth to children who inadvertently lift her sleeping curse – is HORRIFIC.

Given this scattered experience with the Sleeping Beauty story, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Spindle’s End – but I’m happy to say that this novel is among the good adaptations. Rosie, our princess, is gifted and cursed, but she’s also her own savior in this tale. She’s also not the bland pretty princess of the Disney version; she is a bold, honest, and brilliant character in her own right.

So… you could say I was a fan of this take on a very disturbing fairy tale.

Ana: To be honest, I can’t really recall reading a lot of retellings of Sleeping Beauty apart from Jim Hines’ take in his fun Princess series or more recently Karen Healey’s dystopian retelling. I do know that I was never not a huge fan of the Disney movie.

I have always felt thought that Sleeping Beauty is a fairytale with a lot of potential for subversion and deep examination of gender roles, of the nature of curses, of agency (or lack of). And I think that in many ways, Spindle’s End does examine those themes very well.

2. One of the fascinating things about Spindle’s End is the prevalence of magic in this world. What are your thoughts concerning the magical systems in this book – curses, baby-magic, charms, and all?

Thea: Oh, I love the magic in this world! I love that magic is commonplace and accepted by nobles, royals, and commoners alike; I love that fairies live alongside ordinary people, and that their skills are valued and sought out by others. (Incidentally, there are also magicians, who are different from fairies, but they don’t really get much screentime in this book – even by the end of the novel, other than one named Ikor, magicians seem largely ancillary to the story.) I also was fascinated with this idea that magic can cling to things – turning mugs into frogs, or sticking to young children in the form of “baby magic” until those children grow up and the magic fades away (or in some instances grows stronger).

I love that Spindle’s End gives Rosie her own magical ability – one that has nothing to do with being blessed with cherry lips or teeth like pearls, or golden curls. Rosie’s last gift from her protector Kat is the ability to talk to animals, and it’s a rare fairy talent that Rosie uses to become a horse-leech, to converse with all of the animals who care to converse with her in The Gig, and befriend those same creatures. Rosie’s magical ability is a part of who she is, and by the end of the book, it’s something that gets her through her darkest hour and saves her and the people she loves from doom. It’s a talent that is so well imagined (animals do not think or communicate in human ways) and so well written.

Also, this is perhaps random, but there’s one image in this book that really sticks with me and it is the image of the seeking spell that Pernicia (the evil fairy) weaves to find the erstwhile princess for twenty-one years. Let me just quote the passage because this vision of a tattered, relentless spell is so damn effective:

It is a great shaggy thing by now, spiny as a holly tree with the errors of twenty years’ looking; and we have teased and pestered and vexed it as we could – the guarded fortresses were not our only means of confusion – but it has gone on looking. When we found that the spell had settled here, in the Gig – we knew what this meant.

So…consider me a fan of the magic in this book.

Ana: Like Thea, I was a fan of the magic in the book. More to the point, I was a fan of how it was written in the book. If there is one thing I really love about McKinley’s writing is the way that the author is able to write magic systems in ways that are intricate without being overly explained. I think a very apt word for the magic in this particular would be “woven” for the writing goes round and round, often meandering but always coming back to the point to elaborate on the way that magic works. One of the best examples I can think of is the way that magic informs the world and deeply affects it. After the events in the beginning when baby Rosie is cursed by the evil fairy Pernicia to prick her finger on a spindle, that curse becomes entangled with the history of that country. Spindles change form, became part of the cultural make-up of that country, entering history and becoming “traditional” and later in the future even changing language in meaningful ways: “sound as a good spindle’s end”. I just like this very much.

As for beast-speak, Rosie’s ability to speak to animals, I agree that it is well-imagined but – at risk of sounding like the Grinch Smuggler – also a bit annoying because then every animal Rosie met would converse with her and it gets to a point where I just couldn’t deal with another talking animal.

3. Let’s talk about Fate for a second. From her very birth, the Princess Casta Albinia Allegra Dove Minerva Fidelia Aletta Blythe Domnia Delicia Aurelia Grace Isabel Griselda Gwyneth Pearl Ruby Coral Lily Iris Briar-Rose is heaped upon with senseless gifts from twenty-one fairies, and one pernicious curse from the spiteful Pernicia. It would seem that this poor, innocent child’s future has been set before she even has the chance to live. But Rosie is hardly the sweet-tempered, beautiful princess that one might think she’d become. Discuss the theme of fate in this book, and your thoughts as it relates to Rosie and all the lives around her.

Ana: In Rosie and the curse that befalls her, I think, is where the book truly shines. From the start, it was clear the author was taking this into an interesting direction as Katriona sat there making fun of the “gifts” bestowed on the baby and how useless they all seem to be. The extent of their usefulness is all down to Rosie as she grows up to be entirely her own person.

Actually, one of the best, funniest moments in Spindle’s End is when Peony remarks on Rosie’s beautiful eyelashes and Rosies say something like “get dead, I hate my eyelashes”.

More than the idea of fate, I think there is another really interesting idea at play here: one that examines those gifts as merely superficial to the point they fail because it will always depend on the person. So in a way, this is more about agency than fate although the latter appears to be all but decided. Similarly, as Rosie grows up and then learns the truth about her origin, she decides what to do and faces it all head-on, with the help of her friends and family.

Thea: I loved Rosie. I loved her. She’s certainly no bland Disney Briar Rose; this Rosie is bold, loves working hard, and harbors a rebellious streak. She cares for the animals she works with and befriends, and she’d rather spend time with the taciturn local blacksmith than sit idly. This is in part because Rosie’s guardians have been careful to keep her away from activities that could activate her birth-day gifts (such as embroidery or dancing) and they’ve shorn off her glorious golden curls as a child – but as she grows up, Rosie genuinely doesn’t care for a noblewoman’s way of life. She keeps her golden hair cut short (it’s impractical, otherwise), she refuses to sit still, and when she ultimately does experience the life dictated by her royal birthright, she’s frustrated and deeply uncomfortable. When it comes down to the curse and the book’s inevitable climax, Rosie needs the help of others to survive and prevail, but she’s very much her own heroine, and I love that.

While I loved Rosie very much, I will say that it takes a long while to actually get to know her as a character. The first two parts of the book follow the perspective of Rosie’s guardians, the fairy Katriona and her older Aunt, as Rosie is a babe and then a young child. I loved Kat and Aunt very much, but the book’s prolonged (extremely prolonged) journey through Rosie’s twenty-one years of young life is just too much. But… your mileage may vary.

4. The ending: your thoughts.

Ana: I…..don’t know what to say about the ending. That’s when the book fell apart for me. It went on for too long and I am not entirely sure I even understand what happened. There was a moment when Rosie jumps on a horse, runs around and next thing I know the villain’s castle is destroyed and I am like…what just happened? It all seemed random and without any firm clarification about what was happening – I still don’t know for example WHY was Pernicia so obsessed about Rosie and the Queen? I am equally baffled by the choice made in which Rosie and Peony exchanged places – it seemed very hand-wavey? As though the girls were interchangeable?

Beyond the confusion and the lack of answers, I did like Rosie’s ending and the May-September romance with Narl (although I was a bit squeaked at first because he kinda brought her up).

Thea: I agree that Spindle’s End‘s achilles heel is its lack of focus – the book is too long and the ending is bizarre and frankly upsetting. SPOILERS AHOY. Can someone please tell me why it’s ok that Rosie and Peony switch places permanently – and why it’s ok for the Queen (Rosie’s poor mother who has been waiting and yearning for her daughter for twenty-one years) to be enchanted and deceived into thinking Peony is her daughter? What?! Why need magic be involved with this at all – couldn’t Rosie have simply abdicated, unveiling the truth and letting her brothers rule?

I also agree with Ana that the romance between Narl is very sweet, but also kind of gross as Narl remembers Rosie as a child playing in his yard (at the time he was already an established blacksmith and also an ancient fairy).

5. Have you read any other Robin McKinley books? Will you read more of her work in the future?

Ana: I’ve read a few: Sunshine, Beauty and Shadows, all of which I liked. Spindle’s End is my least favourite of her books so far. I do plan on reading moars.

Thea: Yep, I’ve read some of the prolific Robin McKinley’s work! As I said before, I tend to have two reactions to her writing: OMG AMAZING (The Blue Sword, Deerskin, Beauty), or I DON’T GET IT (Sunshine – I KNOW I’m the one person that doesn’t like that book – or Pegasus). Spindle’s End is good. It’s not my favorite, but I enjoyed it and I’ll continue to read through Robin McKinley’s work in the future.


Ana: 5 – meh. It started off well and veered into confusion and randomness

Thea: 6 – Good. It’s overlong, oddly vague, and I can’t say I’m a fan of the ending. Still, I liked the book overall.


Now over to you! Please feel free to engage with the questions (and our answers), come up with your own talking points, and/or leave links to your reviews!

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  • Gillian
    April 2, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Thanks for the review–this is one of my favorite McKinley books, so I was excited to hear your thoughts. I seem to find myself defending McKinley’s often meandering style a lot, which is actually one of of favorite things about this book, but I know it’s a matter of taste–must be some quirk of how my brain works! As for the ending–I do think that it makes more sense on the second read. I didn’t like it the first time I read the book either (of course, I was 14 at the time and really wanted more of a classic fairy tale ending), but it made sense to me on subsequent re-reads. Of course, that doesn’t make it less confusing or obscure the first time around, and of course some people will probably never re-read the book. FWIW, I also think that there’s an implication that Rosie’s mother will eventually figure out that Rosie is her actual daughter (“magic can’t do everything”). Anyway, thanks for the review!

  • Jordin @ A Bottomless Book Bag
    April 2, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    This book just dragged on and on. I appreciated the beginning and was ready to love it, but the majority of the book just fell flat to me. Here is my review.

  • hapax
    April 2, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Oh, thank heavens, I thought I was the only one!

    This is the only McKinley book I found myself skimming and have never re-read. (I did try for this readalong, but gave up after that first gorgeous chapter).

    Nobody writes magic more … magic-ally, really, than McKinley, and her stories have the inexorable logic of dreams. But sometimes, like dreams, they just go on and on, meandering from lovely to terrifying to inexplicable images, and I emerge from the book blinking and thinking, “Okay, WTF was THAT all about?”

  • hapax
    April 2, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Oh, and though DEERSKIN will always be my favorite (closely followed by the Damar stories), I would be really interested in y’all’s take on ROSE DAUGHTER. I had … issues … with it, but I think that Ana, in particular, might really like it.

  • Katy K.
    April 2, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I love McKinley in general, but this is sadly one of my least favorites, even though I love lots of parts of it… full review on my blog here: http://wp.me/p2yvgS-BE

  • Anna
    April 2, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    I picked up this book because I wanted to join in with the readalong. I’m afraid I did not finish it. Somewhere in the middle it felt like it dissolved into series of short stories and I lost momentum. Also, I liked the characters but I always felt quite distanced from them and their emotions – but maybe that was to emulate a fairytale feel (classic fairytales usually feel distant to me)

  • de Pizan
    April 2, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    The first time I read this book, I felt the way both of you did, about the length and the ending. But I re-read it again years later and liked it so so much better. Not that it’s my favorite McKinley novel, but I do like it than her more popular fairy tale retellings (except for Deerskin, which is my favorite).
    And I agree with Thea on Sunshine, it was mostly ok, but I really disliked the ending. And Pegasus would have been so much better, if it wasn’t for how the pegasus’ speech would suddenly morph into modern sounding slangy dialogue–I kept picturing this flying horse with a New Jersey accent….

  • Cat
    April 2, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    It was better for me on the 2nd, 3rd, etc reads, so I second that recommendation. It could just be down to taste though, so it may not actually improve on rereading. If you think Spindle’s End is meandering, I would not recommend Pegasus. SPOILERS. I think the ending has a lot to do with the way the country and the magic system work, which is not really explicitly explained. So to answer your question as to why magic needs to be involved: because it’s a magic country (ya, circular reasoning). The rulers seem to share some sort of bond with the country (sort of Shakespearean maybe), so that “bond” or w/e, is what needs to be passed from Rosie to Peony. I think that’s also why Rosie can’t just abdicate? She has been invested with the ruler thing (it’s more explained in Shakespeare’s stuff, since he basically says that the king is appointed by God, or somesuch. In Spindle’s End, I think it has to do more with the land being magic, and so it needs and expects a non-magic ruler). Plus, they had already convinced many people Peony WAS the princess, and as the princess she could marry whathisname, and she was very suited to the job anyways. I think this is actually a very interesting part of the book, because princesshood is inherited, it’s not a job anyone can just get (excluding marriage), but what if the princess is terribly unsuited to the role and has already found the life she wants? (Obviously, in real life there’s abdication, but maybe all the magic country stuff in the book is somewhat a metaphor for the obstacles/pressures/expectations people who want to abdicate will face?) I’ve split my comment into 2, since apparently I have a lot to say.

  • Cat
    April 2, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Part 2 (SPOILERS): Rosie and Peony are very much not interchangeable, but because of that country’s magic, they can create the illusion of it. For the exchange at the end to occur, Rosie had to give up that “thing” which makes the magic country recognize her as the next ruler, and give it to Peony. It was implied that the Queen would realize the truth eventually. It does suck, but she doesn’t even know Rosie, so for me, it was more like she gave Rosie up in a closed adoption, while Catriona and Aunt are her real family. I loved them, so having them be the focus in the beginning worked very well for me. Also, they really help to show how family can impact identity, and I think this book is essentially about identity formation, which is why the story starts with a baby Rosie, and focuses on the people who raised her initially (since knowing their characters can help you understand how Rosie turned out the way she did). In my interpretation, Pernicia represents those random bad things, external to yourself, which can befall people for no good reason, because they aren’t actually reasonable or justifiable. Just because you look wrong, or were born into the wrong family, or because I hate your ancestor, you will be punished!! The sins of the father and whatnot. Narl + Rosie was sort of “outcasts unite,” so it worked for me. Plus, I just think Robin’s choice of protagonist and love interest was so excellent for exploring a fairy tale: a female horse-leach for the heroine and her love interest is a crappy fairy seer blacksmith. And they ENJOY their lives and their place in the greater scheme of things, even though they could have “more”.

  • De
    April 2, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    Two things that Thea got wrong that are sort of important so they bugged me: Ikor is a male fairy, another subversion. Also, Rosie steals the scissors and cuts her own hair and Kat and Aunt scold her for it. They have to threaten to never let Rosie eat again to stop her from also trimming her eyelashes. Rosie thwarts her destiny by being herself, that’s the crux of the story.

    If the interesting part of the book is all the stuff about magic and the country and the way the characters live, then wouldn’t cutting out the “bloat” mean we lose everything that’s best about the book?

    Rosie and Peony didn’t just switch places as an illusion. Due to the nature of that land the Princess was a being unto itself and Rosie gave it to Peony in order to save her friend’s life. Peony is the Princess at the end of the book, it can’t be undone. The fabric of reality has been altered just in the way Ana described, reality, magic and legend become woven together. Though I will admit that the preceding “battle” at Pernicia’s palace was very poorly explained. The one at Rosewood was slightly better.

    I can’t stand up for the end of Spindle’s End, it did also leave me cold though I felt I understood it, I will for the end of Sunshine just because I have a fan theory. It’s weird to call it a “fan theory” when I’m not even sure I like that book (the main character and the obligatory romance bug the hell out of me) but that’s essentially what it is. Let’s see if I have space left. Spoilers:

    1. Sunshine at the end of the book is dying because she has been poisoned by the idea of Bo’s evil. This suggests that the magic in that world must be in some way intrinsic to the person’s perception, hence why wards are only effective if your will is strong enough to resist.
    2. When Kon (Is that his name? I forget) gives Sunshine his blood he says that’s not how turning works. He gives her “clean” blood from a freshly killed animal. However, the process goes beyond his control and he wasn’t able to give Sunshine the blood “cleanly” and it’s implied that if not for the magic inherent in Sunshine’s being she would have been turned. What does “cleanly” imply in this context? It probably means that the blood hasn’t had a lot of time to pick up Konstantine’s magic but it could also be in the way Sunshine understands what is happening. She’s been having nightmares about becoming a vampire as a result of the Giggler’s poison and when Kon tries to heal her she starts to panic. She says it herself, she can’t see the act as healing. Afterwards she believes she has been infected and begins to experience vampiric changes.
    3. If turning someone in the world of the book requires more than a bite or an exchange of blood, is it actually a function of belief? What if being turned in that world hinges upon the human giving up on his or herself, surrendering to the idea that they have been broken by their experiences, made evil past all hope of redemption? If this is the case, then it’s the most horrific version of the vampire transformation I have ever encountered. And yet, doesn’t it make sense? Haven’t vampires always been a metaphor for giving into urges better left buried, the ugliest, greediest parts of our identities? And Kon is something different, the darker part of our nature that isn’t clearly evil but has its own power that must be respected.

    Like I said, I’m not even sure I like this book but this is an idea I just can’t get out of my mind.

  • Cat
    April 3, 2014 at 12:01 am

    @De: I’m the one who mentioned an “illusion” of interchangeability between Peony and Rosie, so I just wanted to clarify that the illusion I was referring to was the illusion the characters created of a princess who never really existed, as symbolized by the spindle carving of the fake princess that looked like a mix of Rosie and Peony. Rosie and Peony did everything together (like breathing at the same rate), so that the magic could create this illusion of them being interchangeable (and thus defeat the curse, because if Pernicia believed it she’d try -and fail- to kill Peony instead). Since it was an illusion, it didn’t really work, so an actual exchange of the ‘princess-thing’ had to occur at the end for Rosie to really stop being the recognized princess. I think this all goes along with how this book is an exploration of identity (except with magic).

  • superbwg
    April 3, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    I agree with the commentators that state a 2nd or 3rd reading is in order to fully appreciate Spindles End (which is oddly one of my favorite Robin McKinley books). That being said I agree wholeheartedly about the WTF ending…but I have had that problem with almost all of the Robin McKinley books. Don’t worry Thea, I was not a huge fun of Sunshine either. If you are looking for a quick, fun, smart and sassy Sleeping Beauty try Gail Carson Levine’s Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep. It is part of her hilarious Princess Tales collection and I bet you guys will fall in love with it.

  • Rachel Neumeier
    April 4, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    >Can someone please tell me why it’s ok that Rosie and Peony switch places permanently – and why it’s ok for the Queen (Rosie’s poor mother who has been waiting and yearning for her daughter for twenty-one years) to be enchanted and deceived into thinking Peony is her daughter?

    This, this, this. The meandering didn’t bother me, I could handle the relationship with the blacksmith . . . barely . . . but this ending, particularly how it dismissed the mother’s longing for her child, really bothered me.

  • KB
    May 25, 2017 at 6:27 pm

    Does anyone have any thoughts on Sigil? Why is Rosie “her dear, her only darling”? Why does Kat often remember the queen missing her daughter, but not Sigil? (142). Why does Sigil all but disappear at the end of the book?

    This is actually one of my favorite McKinley books, and I’ve reread it a dozen times or more, but the fact that I can’t figure out what, if anything, is going on with this fairy is getting to me. Any theories or ideas would be welcome!

  • Katie
    July 13, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    I actually loved this book up until the end. Sure, it was definitely slow at points (read: throughout), but I found myself not minding that so much, as long as I just let myself relax, read it slowly, and become totally immersed. I have to do the same thing with a lot of older books, especially Tolkien, but find myself really enjoying them if I can just get into that mindset. Again, especially Tolkien–I’ve been rereading those lately, and love them. But back to McKinley.
    McKinley’s writing is often quite good–gorgeous even–though at other times I can find myself annoyed and confused by it. It really varies, book to book, for me. Probably something to do with the main characters’ voices shining through. Some are just annoying characters. But like I said, I loved this book: I loved the writing, the magic, the animals, and the characters. I loved the conversational tone, and little anecdotes about magic, even though I’m sure that’s what slowed it down too much for a lot of people. I loved how Rosie unknowingly rebelled against all of her “gifts”–she hated sewing and dancing, cut her hair short to keep it out of the way, couldn’t hold a pitch to save her life (making it irrelevant how “sweet” her singing voice was), and basically just didn’t live up to any of the other supposed virtues the fairies gave her either. I loved Kat, and the man she fell in love with, and their really sweet, quiet but deep relationship. I loved Aunt and Narl (though the Narl-Rosie relationship was kinda disturbing, and honestly? a little rushed) and everyone else.

    But then came the end.

    It was just so horribly confusing and made no sense at all. It was like one long crazy dream sequence. It was awful. I mean, how did all that running about actually defeat Pernicia?! I understood Rosie and Peony switching places, that actually made a ton of sense to me and I really liked it. It was about how birth doesn’t make you a true ruler or princess, doesn’t make you suited to that life and station. Peony, who actually loved all of the activities Rosie hated, and had the patience and deep connection to people Rosie lacked, was more a princess than Rosie, despite their births. And because of that, she was not only exactly what they needed to fool the spell, but also the one who SHOULD rule after Pernicia was defeated.

    It was just everything that happened after Peony fell asleep that I absolutely hated. The whole defeat of Pernicia could have been so much better, and that would have made the book almost perfect for me. I so often DO enjoy McKinley’s books, but when I don’t, it’s almost always the same thing that frustrates me about them–the lack of order and sense to her magic. Even when she sets it up quite nicely initially, as in this book or in The Blue Sword series, she will eventually decide to do some insane, nonsensical, dream-like magical finale that totally breaks all the previous supposed rules of the magic of that world just for the convenience of ending with a bang. And that makes no sense to me. Why throw away all that world-building with some nonsensical finale? Why, McKinley, WHY?! Remember the endless staircase and equally endless fall at the end of The Hero and the Crown? Everything before that was so carefully worked out, with the dragons really just being animals that had become quite rare, and Aerin working out the exact formula and plant quantities needed to make a fire-repelling ointment. So carefully done and realistic. Practically scientific. And then at the end, she decides to throw in a Lake of Dreams, an endlessly tall tower, an army of demons, and for some reason, immortality. Probably a lot of other weirdness I can’t remember too. Point is, that nonsense basically ruined the book for me. Dashed to pieces all her carefully realistic and detailed work earlier on. And the same sort of thing happened in Spindle’s End. In fact, it happens EVERY TIME she writes. Except sometimes the magic is confusing and nonsensical the whole book through!

    Well, maybe that’s not entirely fair of me. I haven’t read EVERYTHING by McKinley. And Beauty, which I did read, wasn’t so bad in that regard. But I’ve got to vent my frustration somewhere, right?

    Other than that constantly exasperating aspect of McKinley’s work, I did quite love Spindle’s End. Though I do agree, Pernicia was a bit underdeveloped.

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