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Rose Daughter
Robin McKinley
Ace Books, 292 pages

Art: Dennis Lyall
Rose Daughter
Robin McKinley
Robin McKinley was born in 1952 in Warren, OH. She attended Dickinson College and was graduated summa cum laude from Bowdoin College. In 1978, her first novel, Beauty was accepted on her first submission. She, along with her writer husband, Peter Dickinson, and three whippets, lives in Hampshire, England. Besides five novels and two collections, Robin McKinley has had two children's picture books published: My Father is in the Navy and Rowan.

Robin McKinley Website
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SF Site Review: Rose Daughter

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Robert Francis

Rose Daughter is a re-telling of the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast. It is also the second time that Robin McKinley used this particular tale as a basis for a fantasy novel, the first being about 20 years ago in her novel Beauty. However, do not make the mistake of assuming that because it is a re-telling, you know the story. It doesn't matter if you've read the traditional French fairy tale, or watched the Disney version, or even read McKinley's Beauty. Oh, sure, you'll know the general outline of the story... maybe. One of the delightful things I found in this book is just how well McKinley kept things maddeningly familiar -- so you felt that you should be able to anticipate the character's actions or thoughts -- but then skillfully avoided the well-worn plot-paths to forge new ground.

Jane Yolen described McKinley's first re-telling of this story, Beauty, as a book to read when the world got too demanding -- sort of a "comfort book."  Well, actually, Jane Yolen didn't directly say this, but she had the protagonist in her novel Briar Rose make this observation about McKinley's Beauty. I think the same can be said about Rose Daughter. It is a book to read when you want to lose yourself in a mildly allegorical world, where the detailed descriptions are provided to allow you to experience the mood that a character is in, and not to provide you with any critical insight on what the next plot twist might hinge upon.

If you are looking for action and adventure, I wouldn't recommend this book. However, if you enjoy a book that creates lush and vibrant realities through painstakingly beautiful descriptions of settings or thoughts, then read on. McKinley skillfully creates mood, atmosphere, and setting with her gentle and thorough descriptions. I must warn you, though, that the strength of this book could also become a weakness. This is not a book to read during your lunch breaks, or if you're on a tight schedule, or if you are in a rush to get to something else. If you can't just sit and relax, and let the book flow at its own pace, you will find yourself skimming through McKinley's elaborate descriptions trying to get to the next exciting scene, dramatic happening, or critical plot twist. Trust me, if you read Rose Daughter like that, you won't enjoy it.

Because one of the strengths of this book is how it makes the familiar new again, I didn't think it a good idea for me to describe the plot in any great detail here. The plot is probably enough like any telling of Beauty and the Beast that you've seen, heard, or read that you shouldn't buy this book expecting A Clockwork Orange. What you should buy this book for is several uninterrupted hours of, well, comfort. And, when you're done with it, read McKinley's original Beauty.

Copyright © 1999 by Robert Francis

Robert Francis is by profession a geologist, and, perhaps due to some hidden need for symmetry, spends his spare time looking at the stars. He is married, has a son, and is proud that the entire family would rather read anything remotely resembling literature than watch Jerry Springer.

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