Friday, February 12, 2016

Review - Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley

Rose Daughter
Genre: Fairytale Retelling
Series: Standalone
Source: Purchased
Published: Open Road Media (2014) 
Kindle - 308 pgs 

Rating: 2/5

Once upon a time, a wealthy merchant had three daughters . . . and when the merchant’s business failed, he and his three daughters left their grand house in the city and moved to a tiny cottage buried deep in the countryside. The youngest daughter, Beauty, is fascinated by the long, thorny stems of an unknown plant that overwhelms the neglected cottage, and she tends it until, the following summer, its rich, fragrant flowers are the most glorious things the sisters have ever seen: roses.

An old woman tells Beauty: “Roses are for love. Not . . . silly sweethearts’ love but the love that makes you and keeps you whole. . . . There’s an old folk-tale . . . there aren’t many roses around any more because they need more love than people have to give ’em . . . and the only thing that’ll stand in for love is magic, though it ain’t as good.”

There’s no magic in the town of Longchance, but, the old woman adds, Beauty may not know that this is the result of a sorcerers’ battle that happened many years ago, a battle that left a monster, or perhaps a beast, in an enchanted palace somewhere in the deep forest . . . and a curse concerning a family of three sisters.

To be honest Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairytale. Nothing really compares to Belle who loves to read and The Beast who gives her that beautiful library that I saw as a child and dreamed about having since. I've read a few retellings and one of the ones I liked the best was Beauty. There were a few things I had issues with, like the abrupt ending, but overall when I read it last year I liked it. 

When this title promised to be better, I anticipated 20 years of writing experience would indeed work in McKinley's favor. After this long drawn out retelling though, I would stick with the original.

This retelling is completely independent of Beauty no matter what Goodreads would have you believe. (TBH - I think part of my struggle with this book was I anticipated it coming full circle back to Beauty at some point) The first half of the book was slow but manageable. The sisterly relationship is quite similar to the first retelling and I enjoy that bond in both stories. The book seemed to take a turn when Beauty traveled to the Beast's castle. The writing became too description heavy and drawn out for me to really focus on the story. Several times I found myself lost or confused about what was happening and had to reread long sections to try and absorb it again. There was a particular section at the end of the book where Beauty is lost and struggling to find her way out of Beast's castle. I nearly gave up at that point! That section was odious to read. These drawn out sections reduced my investment in the characters to nothing and I skimmed the rest of the way through the story. Overall, I was disappointed.

The story of Beauty and her family is interesting and I was pleased with their character arcs. Her sisters especially have more character depth. Beauty wasn't as spunky or lively as the other two. Just like Beauty I felt their absence after she left home for the castle. The lore McKinley created within the story was interesting and well constructed. The mystery was simply drawn out too long and too focused on growing roses. The hard part is I understand What the author was trying to do. After reading her author's note at the end I see how she was trying to incorporate her love of gardening and struggle with gardening roses into this story. As a plot device though it made the plot meander too many times. 

Personally, I was glad to finally get to the end of this story. It seems I will always have a love/hate with McKinley's writing. I've adored some of her books and others have fallen flat like this one. We'll see what my next read brings. 

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