Ok, I know this isn’t a literary blog (it’s not really an anything-blog, it’s just sort of little random snippets of my life and occasional scary insights into my sense of humor), but reading is a huge part of my life and has been ever since I learned that letters make words and words make stories. For as long as I can remember, I have devoured the printed word, and I discovered early on that fantasy and science fiction were my favorite kind of literary escape – I read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was nine and from that point on I was hooked. My tastes now are wider-ranging, but a huge part of my personal library (and the selection of books I read over and over) is still in the fantasy/sci-fi genre.
It was probably two or three years after discovering fantasy that I came across Robin McKinley’s Blue Sword in my school library, and she instantly became one of my favorite authors of all time (and she’s pretty much stayed right up there, even decades later). One of my prized possessions as a child was my very own copy of The Door in the Hedge that I found at the used-book store and kept until it eventually disintegrated into a pile of dust and limp gritty pages (I had to rely on the library for most books as a child, so any that were mine-all-mine were guarded as carefully as treasure). Once I got a job and started earning money, my book collection increased exponentially and Robin’s books were some of the first I bought.
Throughout the years I’ve continued trying to round up every McKinley book I can get my hands on (and some aren’t easy to find, let me tell you!). I’ve found that even if one of her books falls outside my normal interest-zone, I know I’ll like it just because she wrote it. She has an intriguing and snarkily amusing way of looking at life and her books are always excellent and never mundane (much like her blog – you don’t even know how excited I was to discover that she not only had a blog, but that she updates it regularly. I can’t even describe how happy this makes me.) Her world-creation and character development are masterful and despite often dealing with real-life issues, she never succumbs to the temptation to allow her writing to devolve into stuffy and stilted idealogical rambling (something I really wish I could say about all authors). Her ramblings are always thought-provoking and well-suited to the characters, situations, and worlds she’s writing about and never fail to add to the storyline rather than detract from it.
Go. Buy her books.
Go read Chalice if you like books that challenge you as a reader (I promise you won’t figure out most of what the heck is going on til you’re at least two-thirds of the way in). Go read (for the love of all that’s holy, you must read) Blue Sword if you have any affection at all for fantasy (this is a great book for younger readers, too – nothing objectionable or parental-advisory-worthy). If you like contemporary vampire fic, go read Sunshine (the only book she has released in this genre at this point). Want a completely unexpected and reimagined retelling of a fairytale? Go read Rose Daughter or Spindle’s End (trust me, neither is anything you’d ever imagine and you won’t be disappointed). Want to gnash your teeth and curse at an author for leaving you gasping with a b*tch of a cliffhanger? Go read Pegasus (thankfully the first of a trilogy, or Robin’s fans would have lynched her by now). ;-) There are so many more and they are all worth reading, for young and old alike.
There are plenty of Robin’s books in publication right now – all of the above and more – so go grab one (or twelve) to keep you occupied for the next few weeks, because on September 26 her newest book, Shadows, hits the shelves (I’ve already pre-ordered it on my Kindle, but you can enter to win a free signed copy [as I've done and am doing!] – details here). I’ve shamelessly cut-and-pasted the description (from the Amazon page) below:
A compelling and inventive novel set in a world where science and magic are at odds, by Robin McKinley, the Newbery-winning author of The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword, as well as the classic titles Beauty, Chalice, Spindle’s End,Pegasus and Sunshine
Maggie knows something’s off about Val, her mom’s new husband. Val is from Oldworld, where they still use magic, and he won’t have any tech in his office-shed behind the house. But—more importantly—what are the huge, horrible, jagged, jumpy shadows following him around? Magic is illegal in Newworld, which is all about science. The magic-carrying gene was disabled two generations ago, back when Maggie’s great-grandmother was a notable magician. But that was a long time ago.
Then Maggie meets Casimir, the most beautiful boy she has ever seen. He’s from Oldworld too—and he’s heard of Maggie’s stepfather, and has a guess about Val’s shadows. Maggie doesn’t want to know . . . until earth-shattering events force her to depend on Val and his shadows. And perhaps on her own heritage.
In this dangerously unstable world, neither science nor magic has the necessary answers, but a truce between them is impossible. And although the two are supposed to be incompatible, Maggie’s discovering the world will need both to survive.
You can read a little excerpt from the beginning of the book here.
Seriously – do yourself a favor and pop over to your local bookstore or library (or friendly Amazon Kindle page) and grab yourself (and maybe your kids) some McKinley.