Thursday, November 19, 2015

Review: The Door In The Hedge & Other Stories

The Door In The Hedge & Other Stories
Robin McKinley

Summary via Amazon:
Ensorcelled princesses . . . a frog that speaks . . . a magical hind—Newbery Medal winner Robin McKinley opens a door into an enchanted world in this collection of original and retold fairy tales

The last mortal kingdom before the unmeasured sweep of Faerieland begins has at best held an uneasy truce with its unpredictable neighbor. There is nothing to show a boundary, at least on the mortal side of it; and if any ordinary human creature ever saw a faerie—or at any rate recognized one—it was never mentioned; but the existence of the boundary and of faeries beyond it is never in doubt either.

So begins “The Stolen Princess,” the first story of this collection, about the meeting between the human princess Linadel and the faerie prince Donathor. “The Princess and the Frog” concerns Rana and her unexpected alliance with a small, green, flipper-footed denizen of a pond in the palace gardens. “The Hunting of the Hind” tells of a princess who has bewitched her beloved brother, hoping to beg some magic of cure, for her brother is dying, and the last tale is a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses in which an old soldier discovers, with a little help from a lavender-eyed witch, the surprising truth about where the princesses dance their shoes to tatters every night.

"The Stolen Princess"
I adored this tale. Out of the four it is easily the best. The best part of this particular story is that it is actually two stories! Robin McKinley weaves together the story of the mother, Alora and her daughter, Linadel.

In the first part of the story we are told about the land they come from and the Faerieland just beyond and how they coexist. This part is a little long but it is worth it once you get to Alora and her sister Ellian. As in all tales, tragedy befalls the human kingdom but as in all things time moves on. Alora finds her prince, Gilvan and they become king and queen. They are then blessed with their own child, Linadel.

The second part of this tale has everything to do with Linadel. Now this princess has quite the surprising journey! On this journey, she sees the beauty of Faerieland and meets the faerie prince, Donathor. While one would think this is the happy ending, it isn't! There is so much more!

The best part of this particular tale is that not only does Linadel find her happy ending so does her mother! The lessons one learns in this dual tale are really good ones and definitely universal (I can't say because then this would have spoilers and I hate those!). This story is definitely a 4! I love how seamless the melding of the story was. The simple yet complex nature of it was truly at the heart of every fairy tale. Well done!

"The Princess & The Frog"
This was a nice retelling of a common story. While this story was told well, it came after "The Stolen Princess" and thus was kind of a let down. In this story, a princess stands for herself and her country against a bully of a prince. I love how the princess was a strong character even though she ended up getting aid from The Frog. In the beginning of this story, she is one of the few that stand against the evil prince. Even her father was forced to concede to him at times. If she hadn't kept herself strong, she never would have met The Frog. Obviously, The Frog saves the day but for more on that you will have to read it! The morals of the story were good even though fairly common. I would say this story is a 2. I could have made this a 3 if it had been more unique.

"The Hunting Of The Hind"
This story was nice because the savior is the forgotten princess! This perhaps was the best part of this story. This particular kind of fairy tale is always a favorite of mine, when the forgotten or least likely person becomes the hero or heroine. Aside from this fact, the story fell flat for me. In fact, when I came to write this review, I had almost entirely forgotten it! I then reread it and discovered why. I feel like this story was almost an afterthought. The story takes sometime to reach its climax and then its over in a snap. And as for its fit within the collection, I feel it is also the odd man out. The others all speak of romantic love and this one it is merely an after thought. I do appreciate the continuation of the familial love. However, I could only give this story a 2.

"The Twelve Dancing Princesses"
Now, I really enjoyed this one! Once again the beginning of this tale seems longer than necessary but it seems this is a part of Robin McKinley's writing style. Thankfully, it is worth the wait! The hero of this tale is but a common man turned retired soldier. We come upon him as he is traveling to the capital of his country to see whom he had given his youth to. Along the way he discovers the mystery of The Twelve Dancing Princesses from an ostler he worked for. Along his travels he comes upon an old woman at the edge of the wood. (Always my favorite character in fairy tales). Of course as he is the hero he treats her kindly. Finally, he makes his way to the capital! Once there he takes on the mystery. I like how he uses his skills from being a soldier to figure out the mystery. While the whole tale itself is pretty common, how things play out in the end is well done. I would give this story a 3 if merely for the very end. The end is what tipped the scales from average 2 to a well done 3.

Altogether, this anthology is well done but obviously had its highs and lows. I feel as a collection it deserves a 3. It had a strong start, a flagging middle and a good finish. Out of all of them the only one that I really loved was the first one. "The Stolen Princess" is such a good story I highly recommend that story (even if you skip the others). Its a feel good story for adults (mostly Moms) and a good story for kids (boys and girls as the morals work for both).

1 comment:

Cherry Night said...

This is one of my favorite reviews! I love how detailed your reviews are! Especially about the highs, lows and what to expect. This sounds like a great story to wind down to.