This fairytale collection contains four stories, two original (The Stolen Princess and The Hunting of the Hind) and two retellings (The Princess and the Frog and The Twelve Dancing Princesses). I liked them all to a certain degree, but my favorite happened to be McKinley’s version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. When I was younger, I was never really crazy about that fairytale, but the way this story was crafted, which enabled the reader to see the story from the soldier’s point of view, helped me change my opinion and learn to love it. Definitely well done.
As for The Princess and the Frog and The Hunting of the Hind, though interesting, they were far too short and ended rather abruptly. For instance in The Princess and the Frog, Prince Aliyander’s character is never fully developed, and at story’s end, the reader’s left hanging with several questions. At first, Aliyander seems like a Uriah Heep type from David Copperfield
, but then his deceptions are revealed to have a deeper and darker intent grounded in sorcery. Yet the reader’s left wondering from where did he learn his talents? Who taught him? And how was the prince captured and turned? None of this is really explained. And the final confrontation at the end is somewhat lacking in its brevity.
The same can be said for The Hunting of the Hind. The meeting with the wizard is barely a paragraph. The reader never sees him; the description merely gives a sense of his presence. Would have preferred to read some interaction and conflict between him and the princess. As it stands, the story’s OK, but could have been better if it was longer.
The Stolen Princess has a rather interesting utopian concept: a harmonious and ideal joining of two vastly different worlds. I almost wish, though, that McKinley turned it into a full novel, which would have allowed her more room to explore and expand on those themes. It does make a good story, but it could have been crafted into a fine novel.
Overall the stories are worth the read, but with the exception of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, I don’t feel they’re a good example of the fine work McKinley’s capable of.