The very first Robin McKinley book I picked up was Sunshine. And, boy, did that blow me away! Smart, sexy, scary, funny and full of incredible desserts guaranteed to send anyone into sugar shock in the best possible way, Sunshine is one of the best and most original urban paranormal books around. Then I discovered Robin McKinley is actually a well-known, well-loved fantasy author and has a whole slew of other books in her backlist which I started reading and loved dearly as well. From then on, I was hooked. I am a solid, hard core Robin McKinley fan.
While McKinley is known for her older books like The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, I have to say my very favourite book of hers is Spindle’s End. It’s a retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the point of view, first, of the fairies who ended up taking the cursed princess into their care, and then in the second part of the book, from the princess’s point of view herself. Rosie is no dreamy Princess Aurora – instead, she is a very no-nonsense, pragmatic sort and quite possibly the last person you’d expect to be a secret princess. I really enjoyed reading about her relationship with her fairy guardians and the other villagers of the Gig, and the simple, charming details of rural living, albeit with the spectre of the evil fairy Pernicia looming over the country. Spindle’s End is a lovely, cozy sort of book, the best kind of book there is to read on a stormy night while curled up under a fluffy sheepskin rug on the sofa with a cup of cocoa and some biscuits.And McKinley does a great job of subtly weaving a few scary elements in her book to give the reader a lovely thrill – an element I also noticed in Sunshine.
While most of McKinley’s books are located in an alternate castles-and-villages-esque universe, usually filled with magic and princesses, Sunshine is set in a modern post-Voodoo War world where vampires, werewolves and demons are real and exist alongside humans. If you groan at the thought of yet another vampire book, I have this to say – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it because Sunshine is definitely an original and a throwback to the good old pre-Twilight days when Buffy, Anne Rice and L.J. Smith’s Night World ruled the vampire fiction world. Plus, Neil Gaiman has nothing but high praise for the book and when Neil Gaiman praises a book, you don’t question it, you read it.
Pegasus probably doesn’t rate in the top three of my favourite Robin McKinley’s books (that final slot is reserved for Beauty, her retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast – and coincidentally, Sunshine is a sort of vampire/modern world retelling of Beauty and the Beast), but it’s a really great, original story that I would recommend to anyone looking for a new fantasy read that doesn’t pull out the usual old tired tropes. Pegasus is a story about a world where humans and pegasi (plural for pegasus) co-exist alongside one another. Due to an ancient alliance, each member of the royal family are ceremonially and magically bound to a member of the royal pegasus family on their 12th birthday. But Princess Sylviianel and her pegasus, Ebon, share a different bond. They can actually talk to one another without needing a magician to translate their words for them. Naturally, this doesn’t sit well with a lot of the people, including the royal magicians, and it is this unease and fear of the unfamiliar that threaten to pull Sylviianel and Ebon apart.
If you love fantasy and smart, original stories and haven’t yet read Robin McKinley, definitely pick up one (or a few) of her books right away. And if you’ve read Robin McKinley’s books, tell me – what do you think? Are you as big a fan of her books as I am?