Today is a lazy day filled with reading old books and not moving from my bed. I definitely needed this after last weekend and especially because this weekend and the next promise to be just as social. Saturday Bear and I are going to Medieval Times (to which my inner 13-year-old goes OMG!!!!) and the week after is prom.
I’ve been reading a little less than I’d like these days but in the past few weeks I finished ROSE DAUGHTER by Robin McKinley and FRAGILE ETERNITY by Melissa Marr. FRAGILE ETERNITY hasn’t been released yet so I won’t review that now, but I’ll say I liked it better than WICKED LOVELY. (I haven’t read INK EXCHANGE.)
Review of ROSE DAUGHTER by Robin McKinley
I’ll say right away that I absolutely detest this cover, but I couldn’t find an image of the one I read anywhere online.
This is McKinley’s second novel retelling the Beauty and the Beast fairytale, the first being the simple, straightforward, yet beautiful BEAUTY, which I reviewed very briefly a while back. (Incidentally I’m rereading it again because it is rapidly becoming one of my comfort reads.) Robin McKinley and I need to meet and commiserate over our mutual love of this fairytale and of our affection for roses, which has sadly acquired the stigma of “old lady-ish.”
Like BEAUTY, ROSE DAUGHTER is a straightforward version of Beauty and the Beast but with a rather significant twist at the end: instead of transforming into a handsome prince, Beauty chooses to have him remain a Beast. (Speaking of which, I was always disappointed by the Disney prince because he was so bland and girly-looking with simply the most enormous schnozz to ever grace the face of a romantic hero. I thought the Beast was adorable. And no, I wasn’t old enough to wonder at the mechanics of that relationship had he remained a Beast.) Also similar to BEAUTY is the inclusion of two loving and caring sisters instead of two evil ones. Lionheart and Jeweltongue of ROSE DAUGHTER are rather more developed in personality than Grace and Hope of BEAUTY. I will confess to having a crush on Lionheart–she who chops off all her hair and goes to work in the stables! What can I say, I have a weakness for cross-dressing women. See also: my love of Tamora Pierce’s ALANNA books and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
ROSE DAUGHTER is a bit more sophisticated in terms of its prose and far more surreal than BEAUTY. In this way it reminded me greatly of the film La Belle et La Bête. Yet for all of this, I still preferred BEAUTY for a number of reasons. First, Beauty and the Beast have significant interaction in BEAUTY, allowing me to read and believe their growing feelings for each other. ROSE DAUGHTER’S third-person narration distanced me from feeling any emotional attachment between this Beauty and her Beast and because this fairytale is my favourite love story of all, I missed it keenly.
Second, the construct is a little forced. In both versions, Beauty willingly goes to the castle to save her father’s life, but in ROSE DAUGHTER, there is an added subplot about Beauty being a greenwitch–one with a magic touch with plants–and how the Beast specifically needs her to revive his dying roses. Roses, in this world, are difficult and ornery flowers, able to be nurtured and grown only with love (of the deepest, truest kind) or its counterfeit by magic. One can see where this is leading, but it didn’t quite work for me.
Nearly all McKinley heroines having a Defining Trait: BEAUTY’S Beauty is a great lover of books and horses while ROSE DAUGHTER’S Beauty is an avid gardener. I read the gardening bits of ROSE DAUGHTER with some interest, especially as I have a brown thumb. My one foray into gardening was when my dad and I planted a few crocuses and sweetpeas at our house in Eagle Rock when I was 10. Dad is an ardent admirer of Mother Nature (as he calls her) and a secret hobbit. I, on the other hand, have no nurturing instinct for either plants or humans. I am a fierce lover of animals though. I can relate to BEAUTY’S Beauty and ROSE DAUGHTER’S Lionheart.
Nevertheless, this is still a McKinley book and this is still a version of my favourite fairytale. Recommended, although I would recommend BEAUTY first.
In an email to an old classmate of mine from 10 years ago, I think I might have finally gotten a “hook” about my book I like. Progress!