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Magical stories set in alternate universes . . . tales of curses and gifts of healing . . . a wizard who has lost his powers . . . and a princess, a troll, and a teenage girl are featured in this diverse collection from Newbery Medalist Robin McKinley

In “The Healer,” Lily was born mute, but she has so great a natural gift for healing that the local midwife and healer takes her as an apprentice. One evening, riding home, she meets a stranger on the road who can speak to her silently, mind to mind. Overjoyed, she takes him home to Jolin—but Jolin can read the mage-mark on him and fears for Lily’s safety, for mages are not to be trusted.
 
In “The Stagman,” Ruen is a princess and will become queen on her name day—if her uncle, the Regent, greedy for the power that should belong to his niece, cannot think of a way to prevent it. And so he invents portents and a purifying ritual that involves chaining Ruen to a rock in an old place of sacrifice, not used since her great-grandfather’s day, and leaving her there alone. Night falls on her despair and in the flickering torchlight she sees the shadow of a man—or of a man with a stag’s antlers—or perhaps of a great stag.
 
In “Touk’s House,” a witch adopts a woodcutter’s baby daughter and raises her along with her own son, whose father was a troll. Erana grows up knowing she is loved, and loving in return—but on her seventeenth birthday she realizes she must leave her foster mother and her best friend and find where in the world she belongs.
 
In “Buttercups,” an old man marries a young wife and takes her home, but he feels unworthy of her vivid youth and risks all for a tremendous prize, in an act of what in his heart he knows is a betrayal of the wild magic that lives on his farm.
 
In “A Knot in the Grain,” Annabelle has no choice when her parents decide they will move to a small town upstate, the summer before Annabelle’s junior year of high school. She spends the summer reclaiming the neglected garden of their new house and reading books from the local library. She also finds a mysterious wooden box in a tiny hidden study above her attic bedroom: a box containing smallish, roundish, nobbly things Annabelle can’t identify, but which are faintly warm to the touch—and which seem to be curiously aware of Annabelle, her loneliness, and her longings.
 
Published: Open Road Media an imprint of Open Road Integrated Media on
ISBN: 9781497673724
List price: $6.99
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I've always loved fairytale retellings, and I really like what McKinley does with fairytales, whether she's making them up or bending them to suit her own stories. This little collection is no different: I'm told the stories are set in the world of some of her novels, Damar, but to be honest I rather preferred them to the Damar novels. I couldn't say why, but...

They're all rather quiet stories, mostly people living in a world with magic where it's really best if that magic doesn't touch them, and when it does, they have to live with it. The first story reminded me of Ursula Le Guin's writing, too, which is always gonna be a good thing. That and the fourth were my favourites, I think.more
I really liked the first four short stories in this book. The last one though, I have to admit, is my least favorite and to me personally could do without. (Just my personal opinion) Other than that, I had a great time reading this book and always am looking for it on the shelf when I am at the library. These stories never get old to me and I love it when a book can do that without having to be the size of a dictionary!more
Five stories, of varying interest. The Healer, about a mute girl and an injured mage - a Luthe story, though not, as far as I can tell, a Damar one. The Stagman, which annoys me - it's written fairy-tale style, with very little personality to any of the characters, and it's too similar to Luthe & Aerin. The princess marries for the good of the land then runs away to her true love when her duty's done...don't know, it bothers me. Touk's House - an interesting variant on Rapunzel (and a couple other fairy tales), with a touch of the same marrying-for-duty thing but it goes away and she makes her choice. Buttercups, which I like - it follows patterns of several fairy tales, but does it with plenty of personality involved. Pos and Coral are very real; so is Buttercup Hill, and the way they paid and how the cost was not destructive. I wonder what would have happened if they hadn't confessed to each other? Nothing good, I suspect. Finally, the title story. Very different in setting and somewhat in flavor; rather than fairy story set in unspecified lands, a teenager in modern America dealing with moving to a new home and a highway coming through...with just a bit of some old magic sticking its nose into matters. I like that one, too.more
Though Ms. McKinley says she has a hard time with short stories, these five are satisfying. With the exception of "A Knot in the Grain", they are all set in a fantasy world. The first two, "The Healer" and "The Stagman" are certainly set in McKinley's world, Damar. Both feature the character of Luthe. I found "The Healer" satisfying and "The Stagman" a little depressing. Why Ruen has to give up happiness for most of her life is beyond me! "Erana" was a unique twist on the fairytale Rapunzel, though there is no tower or long hair and Erana is free to go when she grows up. "Buttercups" was probably my favorite. I loved how Coral and Pos are both beset by doubts and worries, but they learn to turn to each other. "A Knot in the Grain" has fantasy elements, but I liked it most for how Ms. McKinley captures those feelings I had each time I moved as a child. I could relate completely to Annabelle's experiences.more
A collection of five short fantasies, lightweight but sweet; an enjoyable quick read.more
Interesting collection of short stories for young adults. Five different stories, four of which have a distinctly fairy tale flavour and (I think) are set in the Damar of McKinlay's Blue Sword books. I really loved Buttercups - the subversion of the expected was beautifully done and I liked the way hard work and acceptance were the important aspects of success.My main issue with the collection was the last (title) story really didn't fit with the other tales. Set in the modern world with a magic realism tinge it clashed with the style of the others for me.more
I like this better than Door in the Hedge (another anthology of Mckinley's short stories) - the stories here are more concrete, the characters are more realistic and easier to relate to.more
Read all 8 reviews

Reviews

I've always loved fairytale retellings, and I really like what McKinley does with fairytales, whether she's making them up or bending them to suit her own stories. This little collection is no different: I'm told the stories are set in the world of some of her novels, Damar, but to be honest I rather preferred them to the Damar novels. I couldn't say why, but...

They're all rather quiet stories, mostly people living in a world with magic where it's really best if that magic doesn't touch them, and when it does, they have to live with it. The first story reminded me of Ursula Le Guin's writing, too, which is always gonna be a good thing. That and the fourth were my favourites, I think.more
I really liked the first four short stories in this book. The last one though, I have to admit, is my least favorite and to me personally could do without. (Just my personal opinion) Other than that, I had a great time reading this book and always am looking for it on the shelf when I am at the library. These stories never get old to me and I love it when a book can do that without having to be the size of a dictionary!more
Five stories, of varying interest. The Healer, about a mute girl and an injured mage - a Luthe story, though not, as far as I can tell, a Damar one. The Stagman, which annoys me - it's written fairy-tale style, with very little personality to any of the characters, and it's too similar to Luthe & Aerin. The princess marries for the good of the land then runs away to her true love when her duty's done...don't know, it bothers me. Touk's House - an interesting variant on Rapunzel (and a couple other fairy tales), with a touch of the same marrying-for-duty thing but it goes away and she makes her choice. Buttercups, which I like - it follows patterns of several fairy tales, but does it with plenty of personality involved. Pos and Coral are very real; so is Buttercup Hill, and the way they paid and how the cost was not destructive. I wonder what would have happened if they hadn't confessed to each other? Nothing good, I suspect. Finally, the title story. Very different in setting and somewhat in flavor; rather than fairy story set in unspecified lands, a teenager in modern America dealing with moving to a new home and a highway coming through...with just a bit of some old magic sticking its nose into matters. I like that one, too.more
Though Ms. McKinley says she has a hard time with short stories, these five are satisfying. With the exception of "A Knot in the Grain", they are all set in a fantasy world. The first two, "The Healer" and "The Stagman" are certainly set in McKinley's world, Damar. Both feature the character of Luthe. I found "The Healer" satisfying and "The Stagman" a little depressing. Why Ruen has to give up happiness for most of her life is beyond me! "Erana" was a unique twist on the fairytale Rapunzel, though there is no tower or long hair and Erana is free to go when she grows up. "Buttercups" was probably my favorite. I loved how Coral and Pos are both beset by doubts and worries, but they learn to turn to each other. "A Knot in the Grain" has fantasy elements, but I liked it most for how Ms. McKinley captures those feelings I had each time I moved as a child. I could relate completely to Annabelle's experiences.more
A collection of five short fantasies, lightweight but sweet; an enjoyable quick read.more
Interesting collection of short stories for young adults. Five different stories, four of which have a distinctly fairy tale flavour and (I think) are set in the Damar of McKinlay's Blue Sword books. I really loved Buttercups - the subversion of the expected was beautifully done and I liked the way hard work and acceptance were the important aspects of success.My main issue with the collection was the last (title) story really didn't fit with the other tales. Set in the modern world with a magic realism tinge it clashed with the style of the others for me.more
I like this better than Door in the Hedge (another anthology of Mckinley's short stories) - the stories here are more concrete, the characters are more realistic and easier to relate to.more
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