cover image The Stone Fey

The Stone Fey

Robin McKinley. Harcourt Children's Books, $17 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200017-2

While staying true to her penchant for presenting strong female protagonists, Newbery winner McKinley strikes a softer note with this deeply romantic yet ultimately clear-eyed love story set in the fantasy kingdom of Damar. Maddy has always known who she is and exactly what she wants--to tend her flock of sheep; to marry her childhood friend, Donal; and to earn enough money to build her own farm close beside the ""Hills [that] were her flesh and bone."" But after she meets and falls in love with a Stone Fey, Maddy finds herself drifting further and further away from the people and things she truly cares for. Only when she accepts the fact that the Fey is unable to return her love (or to feel anything at all) is she free to rediscover her sense of self. Newcomer Clapp's incidental illustrations, dreamy watercolor and graphite paintings reminiscent of the work of Barry Moser, heighten the quiet drama of McKinley's prose. The best of his landscapes evoke the serene stillness of McKinley's writing; one portrait of Maddy, with its masterful play of light and shadow, particularly showcases his craft, as it glows with the power of burgeoning love. McKinley's sophisticated syntax, as well as the text's subtle concern with female sexuality, make the novella most appropriate for teens who can appreciate its empowering feminist message. The superb storytelling, however, will likely hold the rapt attention of readers whatever their politics or gender. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)