cover image A Knot in the Grain and Other Stories

A Knot in the Grain and Other Stories

Robin McKinley. Greenwillow Books, $14 (195pp) ISBN 978-0-688-09201-6

The strange, rich magic of fairy tales is amplified and made highly personal in five stories by Newbery Medalist McKinley ( The Hero and the Crown ). 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. Lily, the mute heroine of ``The Healer,'' meets a fallen mage who can understand her thoughts and eventually helps her regain her voice. In ``The Stagman,'' Queen Ruen abandons her royal husband for the shape-changing beast that rescued her from her cruel uncle's abuse. A maiden in ``Touk's House'' rejects a prince's hand in marriage in favor of the turquoise-eyed half-troll she has known and, she comes to realize, has loved all her life. In the moving and exhilarating tale ``Buttercups,'' the honesty and hard work of an old farmer and his much younger wife transform what could have been a supernatural disaster into a rare and fruitful blessing. The title story, set in contemporary upstate New York, chronicles both a girl's encounter with a mysterious box she finds hidden in a secret attic in her family's new house and her gradual, prosaic adjustment to life in a small town, far away from her old home and friends. A thrilling, satisfying and thought-provoking collection. Ages 12-up. (May)