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Publisher's Weekly
Children's Literature
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Horn Book

Publisher's Weekly (Aug. 1998)

     While staying 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.
  Newcomer 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.

Booklist ( 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 Phelan
Copyright© 1998, American Library Association. All rights reserved

Linda 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.
John 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

The 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

Horn Book

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 illustrated 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.