cover image Rose Daughter

Rose Daughter

Robin McKinley. Greenwillow Books, $16.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-688-15439-4

Nearly 20 years after the publication of Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast, Newbery Medalist McKinley returns to a tale she obviously loves and tells it once again. This time the adventure unfolds at a more leisurely pace and revolves mostly around gardening, especially the raising of roses. As before, McKinley takes the essentials of the traditional tale and embellishes them with vivid and quirky particulars. For example, Beauty's formerly haughty older sisters--fearless Lionheart and witty Jeweltongue--learn to relish their humble new life in a rural cottage while Beauty tends the cottage's gardens and brings its thickets of magical roses back to life. Similarly, when Beauty arrives at Beast's enchanted palace and discovers that his roses are dying, she sets to work and--with the help of some unicorn dung and the garden-friendly animals that flock back to the formerly barren land--restores their bloom. Beauty's visit home is here prompted by not just loneliness but also a puzzling legend and a series of disturbing visions. Action-minded readers may wish for more narrative zip: dazzling though they are, the novel's lavishly imagined descriptions can be fairly slow going (""The butterflies converged in great shimmering, radiant clouds, and their wings flickered as they crowded together, and it was as if they were tiny fractured prisms, instead of butterflies, throwing off sparks of all the colours of the rainbow""). Still, this heady mix of fairy tale, magic and romance has the power to exhilarate. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)