Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley. ★★★
On the whole, Rose Daughter was all right. Rose Daughter is McKinley’s second time retelling the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast,” the first being her debut novel Beauty. I have read Beauty, but it was too long ago for me to be able to accurately compare the two books.
Beauty is the youngest daughter of a merchant. When disaster strikes her family, she along with her father and two sisters moves to a country cottage covered in roses. The fairy tale is not a re-visioning and for the most part unfolds in the usual manner.
If you’ve read any amount of McKinley’s work, Rose Daughter should feel at least somewhat familiar. It contains all the usual hallmarks of her work. To quote from my prior review of McKinley’s Shadows: “An animal loving girl goes to have her mystical climatic encounter that draws upon her unexplored magical heritage, all the while accompanied by a practical herd of random animals.” This statement remains more or less true for Rose Daughter, although not much is actually done with the heroine’s magic powers in this case.
The focus of the Rose Daughter retelling is the roses themselves. In this version, Beauty is a gardener who loves roses. I actually did like the way McKinley put the roses at the core of the story. It fit with the original tale but still felt new. However, the best aspect of Rose Daughter has to be the relationship between Beauty and her sisters. I really loved the strength of the bond between them and how they worked together in their new circumstances.
Rose Daughter is a sedately paced story that I still enjoyed reading. However there was a lot about it that was very vague and unclear. It seems like there were some good ideas with the backstory to the tale (I particularly liked the idea of Beauty’s mother being significant) but I never felt like I completely understood it.
Rose Daughter had a few significant problems that related mostly to the warping of time. Beauty decides that she wants to marry the Beast after knowing him for only seven days? Really? She hardly had any interaction with him! Then there’s Beauty leaving the castle near the end. Why did she leave? There was no good reason. And then she hardly spent any time there before heading right back. Basically she only had time to run through a recap for her sisters which was as boring as all get out.
I’d probably recommend Rose Daughter only to people who are already fans of McKinley’s fairy tale retellings. If you’re interested in reading one of her books, I would suggest The Hero and the Crown or Sunshine instead.