by Robin McKinley
YA, fairy tale
2 of 5 stars
I'm new to the world of Robin McKinley, and I think the jury is still out. I really liked Beauty, her other retelling of Beauty and the Beast, though I had issues with the end. Here is my review on that one. It was suggested to me many times that I might like Rose Daughter better. Oh how sorry I am to disappoint everyone! This one did have an ending, and even a bit of a surprise one, but I didn't like it better at all.
First, what I did like:
- Beauty's sisters where talented and fun and not just beautiful.
- Beauty is very kind and has an inner strength.
- Beauty's father grows and changes.
- The roses where interesting and lovely. (Up to a certain point...)
- The names where more descriptions than names (Jeweltongue, Lionheart, Longchance, Bestcloth, Trueword), though this is also a tad annoying.
- The scene with an army of toads following obediently was great.
- The Beast wasn't a spoiled royal child.
- There was an ending.
Why didn't I like it more when it is my favorite fairy tale, has many good things, and has an ending?? I can answer that in one word: Confusing.
Now I'll use lots more words.
The writing in this retelling wasn't as lyrical, as fairy-tale-y, as Beauty, and instead was ambiguous. It was a regular occurrence for me to not quite know what was going. Re-reading the passages didn't help. The only thing I could do was continue and put the pieces together as more details came out. I also never understood the Beast's back story. It was given, or a part was given, no fewer than 5 times. There were different versions, which would have been fine if the accurate version had clarified things. The whole system of magic wasn't clear, there were no internal rules that I could understand. It was frustrating. I still don't know what part the witch played, where the bad guy went, why the house was an enemy, why Beauty dream traveled, or what the heck was up with the weather vane, the see-through animals, or where the compost came from. (Was it from the transparent animals?) Arghh!
I also found the narrative confusing when it dwelt on an ever-changing house and rose tending. The rose were interesting and the house was creepy, but the whole book felt like wandering shifting hallways and pruning bushes. I guess I got bored. All I could think was, "Go talk to the Beast!" How did they fall in love? There was little interaction. It's a nice metaphor - tending the guy's flowers with love until they thrive to save him - but translating that to real love doesn't work for me.
And my last confusing complaint (SPOILER ALERT!!!) had to do with the Beast staying a Beast. I'm not against this plot development necessarily, but I'm concerned about certain physical implications. Call me shallow or carnal if you'd like, but I find physical intimacy an important part of romantic love, and seeing as how he was huge and couldn't even eat like man, I'm worried about their...compatibility. And really, it's not needful for the story. The Beast doesn't need to stay a beast to prove anything, Beauty loved him the way he was. But freedom from the spell traditionally involves freedom from a shape he hates and the ability to marry, etc...
I didn't hate it. I was happy to finished reading it. (Though part of that was hoping that I'd understand what was going on at the end...) But I preferred Beauty 10 times over.