T h e S t o n e
F e y R e v i e w s
Site -- The Best in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Weekly (Aug. 1998)
true to her penchant for presenting strong female protagonists, Newbery
winner McKinley strikes a softer note with this deeply romantic yet
ultimately clear-eyed love story set in the fantasy kingdom of Damar.
Maddy has always known who she is and exactly what she wants--to tend
her flock of sheep; to marry her childhood friend, Donal' and to earn
enough money to build her own farm close beside the "Hills [that]
were her flesh and bone."But after she meets and falls in love with
a Stone Fey, Maddy finds herself drifting further and further away from
the people and things she truly cares for.
Only when she accepts the fact that the Fey is
unable to return her love (or to feel anything at all) is she free to
rediscover her sense of self.
Clapp's incidental illustrations, dreamy watercolor and graphite
paintings reminiscent of the work of Barry Moser, heighten the quiet
drama of McKinley's prose. The best of his landscapes evoke the
serene stillness of McKinley's writing; one portrait of Maddy, with it's
masterful play of light and shadow, particularly showcases his craft, as
it glows with the power of burgeoning love.
McKinley's sophisticated syntax, as well as the text's subtle concern
with female sexuality, make the novella most appropriate for teens who
can appreciate its empowering feminist message. The superb
storytelling, however, will likely hold the rapt attention of readers
whatever their politics or gender. Ages 10-up.
( November 1, 1998 )
Grades. 6-10. Set in the world of the award-winning The Hero and the
Crown (1984), this beautifully illustrated fantasy tells of Maddy, a
young woman who lives at home during the year her fiance, Donal, goes
away to earn money for their future. Each day, she goes out to her
beloved hill country to tend her flock of sheep. A stone fey appears and
draws Maddy to him until she is in love, enthralled, and forever changed
by the relationship. She gradually pulls away from him, and when Donal
returns, they decide to leave the hills and find a farm in the
southlands. McKinley tells the story with subtlety and grace. Though the
publisher suggests the audience is children "ages 10 and up,"
it's hard to say what a 10-year-old would make of the book. It looks
like a short, illustrated novel in large format, but reads like a short
story for teenagers, the audience most likely to follow what is
happening and understand what Maddy is experiencing. In fact, the text
was first published in 1985, though the artwork in this edition is
original. Every few pages, a large
watercolor-and-pencil illustration appears, sometimes portraying the
characters rather realistically and at other times offering quite
beautiful, impressionistic interpretations of the characters and the
land. A haunting story in a handsome book. Carolyn
Copyright© 1998, American Library Association. All rights reserved
Uhlenkott - Children's Literature
"I refuse to have anything to
do with anything that doesn't have roots and isn't green." This
line, nearly the last in The Stone Fey, is the key to the mystery, the
haunting character of the stone fey. Although ostensibly about a
forbidden sort of love, it is also a narrative examination of the
sufferings of Maddy, who wants something different than the farm that
her mother inherited from her grandmother, and that she, Maddy, will
inherit from her mother. As strong-willed as her mother, Maddy insists
on retaining some of the money that she earns from her sheep, saving it
in an old boot against the day that Donal, her fiance, will return home
from his year of working as a logger. He and Maddy plan to buy their own
farm. Maddy's enchantment by a stone fey strains her ties to Donal, her
family, even her sheepdog, before she returns (literally) to her senses.
John Clapp's illustrations of the
landscape of Maddy's Hills evoke the mystery of the British Isles; they
induce in the reader a willing belief in the existence of stone feys and
other magical creatures. Although
Maddy and Donal obviously consummate their relationship before their
marriage, Robin McKinley, a Newbery Medalist, deals with this in a
subtle and tasteful manner that makes this book appropriate for middle
grade children and up. 1998 (orig.
Maddy has lost her sheep and even her dog Aerlich doesn't know where to
find him. "It would soon be too dark to see anything, but a
succulent young lamb would not survive the night in the wild rocky scree
beyond the farm; if a foltza didn't get him, a yerig would. Damn."
Okay, so Newbery Medal winner Robin McKinley's magical story The Stone
Fey is no Little Bo Peep tale, and Maddy, the conflicted, passionate
shepherdess, is no Bo Peep. One wild night in the Hills of Damar, a
stone fey--a magical creature of the wilds--greets Maddy with her lost
lamb in his muscular arms--his skin was gray, with "a rose-quartz
flush across his cheekbones." After that fateful night, she can't
get him out of her head, despite her commitments to longtime sweetheart
Damon, who is due to return from a year away. With all the mist and
mystery of a Mary Stewart novel, The Stone Fey is sure to thrill young
readers with wildness in their hearts.
Clapp's lovely watercolors perfectly capture the mood of this haunting,
innocent exploration of the nature of romantic love.
(Ages 10 and older) --Karin Snelson
SF Site -- The Best in Science Fiction and Fantasy
A review by Margo MacDonald
It's difficult, really, to classify this book. At first glance, it
appears to be a beautifully illustrated children's book (and that is
what it's being marketed as). But if you actually pick it up and read
it, and allow yourself to fall into the watercolour world of the
illustrations, you will find that it is not exactly the kind of story
most parents read to their children -- at least not nowadays. For what
Robin McKinley has given us with this tale is a return to the old world
of storytelling; when the cautionary tales told around the hearth fires
entertained the children on one level, while they spoke to the hearts of
the older folks on another.
This is a story of seduction. The time neither is nor ever was and the
place is neither here nor there. The story is set in the timeless here
and now of traditional fairy tales. Maddy is a young woman who tends
sheep for the family farm up in the ancient hills. One day a lamb is
lost and is returned to Maddy by a most mysterious being. A
not-quite-human man with grey skin and expressionless eyes. A being out
of her grandmother's tales. A stone fey.
The story follows Maddy's seduction into the arms of the stone fey --
and her gradual recovery from his spell. On the outskirts of the tale
are the quiet concern of Maddy's family (and dog) as they see the
changes in her which grow with each day spent in the company of the fey.
And then there is her loving fiance who will be returning soon to start
their new life together. In spite of their concern, however, it is
Maddy's strength of individual will and self-realization which will
allow her to break the consuming spell of the fey.
Children, I think, will be most amused by the personalities of the sheep
and Maddy's dog, so lovingly and insightfully portrayed by McKinley
(though I must admit, the dog was my favourite character, too). For
adults, though, the resonance will run deeper. An allegory of those
rebellious teenage years when family was pushed aside, the loss of
fleeting romance to something more sound, the decision to turn away from
the dreamlands of childhood and settle into adulthood -- all these
themes echo in the depth of story beneath this story.
Readers of all ages will be captivated by
the beautiful watercolour illustrations by John Clapp. Through his
skill, Clapp takes the gazer from dark, sullen shadows into dizzyingly
bright daylight. He captures with simplicity the personalities of the
land, the sky, the dog and Maddy. My favourite is the illustration of
the stone fey at the far end of a long dark path -- a dark shadow
against a dark sky -- holding a tiny white lamb in its arms and looking
for all the world like a choice to be made.
The skill of McKinley's writing is not unexpected. As always, it is as
welcome as a twinkling star in an overcast sky. The softness and
subtlety with which she guides the reader through the story are the
hallmarks of her style, combined with a sly sense of humour and a quiet
sadness which shrugs itself, finally, into peace. What did come
unexpectedly were the haunting after-effects of reading this deceptively
simple tale. I can still feel that little pea of loss rolling around
inside my chest, or as if there is a shadow against the starlit sky, or
a sudden surge of joy which makes me, like Maddy and the sheep, want to
"jump straight into the air for no reason, and dash off in whatever
direction she found herself in when she came down again, only for the
pleasure of doing something dumb."
It takes a master storyteller to be able to reach into the hearts and
emotional experience of the readers and speak to them on many levels and
in many different ways. It can no longer be denied that the title
"master storyteller" is one that should be added to the end of
McKinley's name, like PhD or MBA. Robin McKinley, Master Storyteller.
Yeah, that about sums it up.
Copyright © 1999 by Margo MacDonald
This picture book edition of a story first
published in [cf2]Imaginary Lands[cf1], a collection of short fantasy
stories for young adults edited by McKinley, is
with lush watercolors. The love story--though she has
plans to establish a farm with Donal, young Maddy finds herself seduced
by a legendary hill creature--may miss its audience in this format. Copyright
© 1999 The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved.