Whenever I talk about favorite authors, Robin McKinley always makes the short list. One of the reasons boils down to a memory from when I was about twelve years old. I stood at the checkout desk at our local library holding a stack of books. The librarian informed me that I wouldn’t be able to check out any of my books until I paid my outstanding fine: $15 for a book that never been returned.
“Which book?” I asked, feeling pretty depressed. I wasn’t very good at saving money at that point, so there was no way I had enough allowance saved to pay the fine.
She looked back to her computer. “The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.”
“Do you mean this one?” I asked, holding up the copy I had pulled of the shelf minutes ago. By virtue of the library only owning one copy, my fine was waived and I took the book home yet again.
Of the ten or more times I have read The Hero and the Crown, I’m willing to bet that at least half were that same library copy. (You can read my full review of the book here.) I don’t re-read very many books once, let alone multiple times. I save that devotion for a handful of lifetime favorites.
About the Author
Robin McKinley is an American author living in England at the time of this writing. She moved around as a child, but I have heard her describe herself as being from Maine. A full 100% of the people I know from Maine are hardworking and kind people, so take that for what it’s worth (which, like with most anecdotal evidence, is almost nothing).
About the Books
Many of Robin McKinley’s books are fairy tale retellings including two separate versions of Beauty and the Beast, Beauty and Rose Daughter. Her books are almost always classified as fantasy, which I think is more a result of how things were done when she started publishing. While there is certainly an element of something magical in each of her books, many are no more fantastical than something like The Goose Girl or Gregor the Overlander, both of which are usually shelved with the general youth fiction. All that is to say that you wouldn’t have to be a serious fantasy fan to enjoy most of her books.
I’ve had mixed feelings about some of her more recent novels, but I have never put one down and felt that it was a waste of my time. When Robin McKinley publishes a new novel, I will read it. Every time. If anything, I often enjoy her books more with each subsequent reading. Even some of the books that I liked rather than loved (I’m thinking of Chalice and Spindle’s End specifically) come to mind more often than many books I’ve liked more. She has a beautiful way of describing things that just sticks with me. Ever since reading Spindle’s End, for example, I can’t think of the fairy’s gifts of rose-red lips, teeth like pearls, and perfect golden ringlets in the same way.
My hands-down favorites are The Hero and The Crown and its companion novel The Blue Sword. I would move to Damar if I could find it. Other fantastic options are The Outlaws of Sherwood, Deerskin, and Sunshine, though Sunshine is decidedly more mature than her other novels.
You can find more about Robin McKinley on her website here.