Magical stories set in alternate universes . . . tales of curses and gifts of healing . . . a wizard who has lost his powers . . . and a princess, a troll, and a teenage girl are featured in this diverse collection from Newbery Medalist Robin McKinley
In “The Healer,” Lily was born mute, but she has so great a natural gift for healing that the local midwife and healer takes her as an apprentice. One evening, riding home, she meets a stranger on the road who can speak to her silently, mind to mind. Overjoyed, she takes him home to Jolin—but Jolin can read the mage-mark on him and fears for Lily’s safety, for mages are not to be trusted.
In “The Stagman,” Ruen is a princess and will become queen on her name day—if her uncle, the Regent, greedy for the power that should belong to his niece, cannot think of a way to prevent it. And so he invents portents and a purifying ritual that involves chaining Ruen to a rock in an old place of sacrifice, not used since her great-grandfather’s day, and leaving her there alone. Night falls on her despair and in the flickering torchlight she sees the shadow of a man—or of a man with a stag’s antlers—or perhaps of a great stag.
In “Touk’s House,” a witch adopts a woodcutter’s baby daughter and raises her along with her own son, whose father was a troll. Erana grows up knowing she is loved, and loving in return—but on her seventeenth birthday she realizes she must leave her foster mother and her best friend and find where in the world she belongs.
In “Buttercups,” an old man marries a young wife and takes her home, but he feels unworthy of her vivid youth and risks all for a tremendous prize, in an act of what in his heart he knows is a betrayal of the wild magic that lives on his farm.
In “A Knot in the Grain,” Annabelle has no choice when her parents decide they will move to a small town upstate, the summer before Annabelle’s junior year of high school. She spends the summer reclaiming the neglected garden of their new house and reading books from the local library. She also finds a mysterious wooden box in a tiny hidden study above her attic bedroom: a box containing smallish, roundish, nobbly things Annabelle can’t identify, but which are faintly warm to the touch—and which seem to be curiously aware of Annabelle, her loneliness, and her longings.
“The strange, rich magic of fairy tales is amplified and made highly personal in five stories by Newbery Medalist McKinley. . . . A pragmatic, unapologetic feminism infuses each tale: while McKinley’s adventurous heroines certainly do not eschew love, neither do they pine after princes and castles. Instead, each of these down-to-earth young women actively seeks a partner—however unusual—who suits her. . . . A thrilling, satisfying and thought-provoking collection.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
Robin McKinley has won various awards and citations for her writing, including the Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown, a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for Sunshine. Her other books include the New York Times bestseller Spindle’s End; two novel-length retellings of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Beauty and Rose Daughter; Deerskin, another novel-length fairy-tale retelling, of Charles Perrault’s Donkeyskin; and a retelling of the Robin Hood legend, The Outlaws of Sherwood. She lives with her husband, the English writer Peter Dickinson; three dogs (two hellhounds and one hellterror); an 1897 Steinway upright; and far too many rosebushes.
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