The Door in the Hedge
by Robin McKinley
The Newbery-Medal winning author of many novel-length books of fantasy, for youth and adults, as well as fairy tale novelizations like Spindles End
, has struck again with this collection of four fairy tales elaborated with warmth, sensitivity, and compelling characters, and interesting new twists.
In The Stolen Princess, we learn what happens in the last kingdom before the borders of Fairyland (or Faerie Land), where newborn boys sometimes disappear from their cradles, and the most beautiful girls vanish on their seventeenth birthdays, and now the only princess in that kingdom seems doomed to vanish like all the others, never to return. What will her parents and their adoring subjects do? What happens when the borders of reality are challenged?
In The Princess and the Frog, an evil sorcerer-prince has used his powers to subject an entire royal court to himself. On the verge of despair, on the verge of being conquered like the rest of her family, a princess flees to a pool of water in the palace gardens and accepts the help of a talking frog. And just in case you think Ms. McKinley doesnt have her facts straight:
You cannot be a frog, she said stupidly. You must be under a spell. ...
Of course, snapped the frog. Frogs dont talk.
In The Hunting of the Hind, a golden deer disturbs the huntsmen of a kings house, and those few who follow her return broken in body and spirit, if at all. Now the beloved prince of the land lies daying. And it falls to a neglected princess to find out the secret of the golden hind.
In The Twelve Dancing Princesses, which in my opinion is the best-executed story in the book (and thats saying a lot), a soldier weary from the wars tries his strength one last time, in a bid to save the kings daughters from an evil enchantment. But even the advice of a wise woman, the friendship of a captain of guards, and the possession of a cloak of invisibility (which almost has a personality of its own) can scarcely prepare the soldier for the threats and wonders of an underworld palace where beautiful people dance all night, where jewels grow on trees, and where the only thing more intoxicating than the music is the terror of the silence that watches behind it.
I have read some, if not all, of these fairy tales in other versions, and some of the other versions have their points to recommend them. But what McKinleys versions lack in crispness and playfulness, they make up in lush scenery and the compelling detail of human drama. You almost learn what it would really feel like to be the hero or heroine of each tale. And thats no trifling accomplishment!
Recommended Age: 13+
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