Posts Tagged Robin McKinley

Beauty – Robin McKinley

 Beauty by Robin McKinley.
Stars: 4.5 of five (five of five as a YA book)
Goodreads summary: Contrary to her nickname, 16-year-old Beauty is not the prettiest girl in her family. But she is the cleverest, bravest, and most honorable. When her father makes a desperate promise to a Beast who lives in an enchanted castle, Beauty fulfills her father’s pledge. A marvelous retelling of a favorite love story. Based on Goodreads’ Beauty by Robin McKinley – Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists.

Beauty  is a single champagne truffle of a book: Robin McKinley’s debut novel from 1978.

This is not a long or complex book. It’s not dark fantasy. It’s a bon-bon that takes the Beauty and the Beast tale and packages it with a charming family in distress, and a self-conscious, bookish young woman who’d rather read Cicero than wear a ball gown.

As a character and first-person narrator, Beauty is self-deprecating, funny, and plausible. The growing affection between her and the Beast is distilled from the fairy tale. No, the Beast’s character is not grittily fleshed out to disturbing brutality. He’s more of a shaggy George Knightley to Beauty’s Emma.  The focus on marriages, suitable or otherwise, did make me think of Jane Austen’s books.

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Dragonhaven – Robin McKinley


Here be dragons... eventually

Dragonhaven: this young adult novel by Robin McKinley is most memorable for its perfect conversational narrative voice of a young man who goes through a literally mind-bending experience. Plot summary from the book jacket:

Jake lives with his scientist father at the Makepeace Institute of Dragon Studies in Smokehill National Park. Smokehill is home to about two hundred of the few remaining draco australiensis, which is extinct in the wild.

There are five million acres of the Smokehill wilderness, and the dragons rarely show themselves. Jake’s never seen one except deep in the park, and at a distance. But then, on his first overnight solo in the park, he meets a dragon – and she is dying.  More than that, she has just given birth, and one of the babies is still alive….

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?  Well, when you open the book, this is not the story you find, not for dozens or scores upon scores of  pages. Warning – the pace is ‘leisurely’. I joked before about there being no Ghostpig in the first few pages of this book: well, not even in the first half of the book.

It’s a narrative approach that stretched my patience almost to snapping. The timeframe starts when Jake has already survived the life-altering experience, and now is struggling to write down its story. Read the rest of this entry »

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CHECK IT OUT GHOSTPIGS – Adventures in Editing

I love this advice on making it past the first editorial cut.  Opening paragraphs, and opening pages, are fun to critique.

In short, start with a bang, start with the Ghostpigs.  

Example from a novel – starting with Robin McKinley’s Dragonhaven: so far I am sad to say there are no GHOSTPIGS in sight.  For the first couple of pages the boy whines about doing homework… only faint hints about past conflict.

Robin, bring on the Ghostpigs!

I’m not a mean person, I’m not rejecting for fun. I want to find awesome stories because frankly, it sucks to read bad ones all day. Finding the readable jewel is a rush, and fun. However harsh I may seem, I actually don’t want to crush spirits under my pointy literary heel. That being said.

But holy shit guys, what the hell is going on with opening paragraphs?

I swear to god, in every workshop I’ve ever known, they’ve said: you have to make your opening paragraph awesome because editors will kick it if it doesn’t grab them right away….

And if you want to hold back your awesome, then wouldn’t it make more sense to start with something at least stylistically interesting, so that by the time the ghostpigs are shredding on diamond-crusted twelve-necked bone-guitars, at least people are like: I trust something supersweet is on its way because this author can clearly write. I cannot begin to understand the logic that says: BORING STUFF UP FRONT, AWESOME TO THE BACK.

There’s a lot more to the article – read it via Rules for Anchorites – Adventures in Editing.

Here are a pair of constructive (less-funny) posts about opening paragraphs:

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