Friday, November 12, 2010

Robin McKinley

Fairy tales are an important part of the Fantasy genre. They play a part in many Fantasy books and are part of its history. Many authors use fairy tales as a springboard for their stories, either as retellings or using their elements to write new books to capture the interests of readers. Robin McKinley is one of these authors. She is an imaginative author of revised fairy tales and two Epic Fantasy books. Her characters are realistic, the stories memorable and descriptions vivid, providing readers with deeply unforgettable books.

Ms. McKinley’s first book was Beauty. It is a strong retelling of the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast.” The book follows the original story closely, but the author deepens the characters with r ealistic motivations and flaws. Beauty is a strong, practical young woman that develops a friendship with the Beast that grows deeper as time passes. She explores the magic of the castle to learn how to help the sad creature. A dramatic story is created by the author’s descriptive talent for bringing fairy tale worlds to life.

Her next book is a collection of short stories. The Door in the Hedge contains four fairy tale stories. Two retell the fairy tales of “The Princess and the Frog” and “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” The other two are the author’s works told in fairy tale style: “The Stolen Princess” and “The Hunting of the Hind.” They are all told in Ms. McKinley’s unique style, breathing new life into some original fairy tales.

The author ventured into Epic Fantasy with the next book The Blue Sword. Her Fantasy world is called Damar. Harry, the main character, is a young woman who comes from a sedate culture. She is kidnapped by the king of Damar and taken to a harsh desert kingdom where she discovers her magic, finds the legendary Blue Sword and becomes a warrior. This is a story of a mystical land full of magic and destinies. Ms. McKinley fills the book with memorable images with her writing.

Her next book was the second Epic Fantasy novel The Hero and the Crown. It is a prequel to the previous book, taking place hundreds of years earlier in the land of Damar. Aerin is the daughter of the king. She has a painful childhood, facing the death of her mother and treated as an outcast by the people. With the Blue Sword and a special ointment, Aerin becomes a renowned dragon slayer. This is a powerful book with strong themes. The author won a Newberry Medal for this book.

The Outlaws of Sherwood was a bit of a departure from Ms. McKinley’s usual stories. She adds a vivid texture and realistic struggles to the characters of the Robin Hood legend. Though not a Fantasy, the story is given interesting new twists with feminist themes included. The book has romance and a lot of adventure. It is very entertaining.

Next, Robin McKinley turned to an adult fairy tale with a dark edge with Deerskin. Princess Lissar grows up with the same beauty as her dead mother. Her father abuses her throughout her childhood which ends in a sexual assault. Lissar flees her home into the woods. She spends a long time to find a new life, but without the traditional fairy tale ending. This book is not for children. It is a disturbing read that deals with the hard issues of child abuse. Ms. McKinley does an excellent job of telling a difficult story.

The author has branched out in recent years with other books. She has a book with vampires called Sunshine. The world has been taken over by vampires. Sunshine, who works in a bakery, is kidnapped by vampires and held captive with a vampire named Constantine. She uses her magical powers to free herself and Constantine then they flee. Together they strive to save the world from the control of the vampires. This is an interesting, entertaining different book by the author.

Her latest book uses Pegasus from Greek mythology set in another world. Pegasus is the story of a princess bonded to her Pegasus. The two species live in uneasy coexistence on their world. Special speaker magicians are the only ones who can communicate between the two species until the princess and her friend come along. Their ability to talk to each other threatens the status quo of the world. This is a beautifully written new book to the author’s body of work.

Fairy tales are an important part of the Fantasy genre. Readers of all ages have been exposed to fairy tales and enjoy them. Robin McKinley is a Fantasy author that retells fairy tales, creates new ones and writes Epic Fantasy using her imaginative talent. Her books add depths to the characters that live in vivid settings. She incorporates modern day issues and important themes in her books. More information can be found at her site:

Other books:

A Knot in the Grain and Other Stories

Rose Daughter

Spindle’s End



A Knot in the Grain

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