I’ve been back and forth to the doctor a few times, but that’s about all I can manage this week. Unfortunately, that means I don’t have any brain for content writing right this minute. I got some fiction work done over the weekend, at least.
I also ran across these stunning wild hybrid roses on a recent walk, and wanted to share them. Wild roses are usually pink, so this bright red is particularly striking.
I just finished Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley. I have to say, I’m not as wild about it as I was about Deerskin, her retelling of the Donkeyskin fairy tale. I really liked Deerskin (reviewed here,) but I did not enjoy Rose Daughter. I wanted to, but it was just so slow.
She lays the fairytale style on pretty thick. There is a lot of telling rather than showing, especially in the beginning. That, along with the old-fashioned language, multitude of dream sequences, unnecessary descriptions of random objects, and messy or missing dialogue, mean the story really isn’t nearly as gripping as it could be. Beauty isn’t the most inspiring heroine, either. She’s supposed to be the sensible one in her family, but doesn’t come across as being sensible as much as being a bit bland. Her stronger and more appealing trait is that she’s kind, to the point of having very little sense of self preservation. That last bit is kind of necessitated by the story, but I still feel like it negates her sensibleness somewhat.
The story is set in a generic fantasy land, complete with griffins, fire salamanders, and unicorns, but the fantasy creatures aren’t really any more relevant than real critters or human characters would’ve been, and I found it weirdly distracting to suddenly have to stop and wonder how one trains a hydra to answer the front door. One, more unique, touch is that roses are incredibly rare in this world, because they require either magic or love to bloom. Despite this, there are more roses in this story than I think I’ve ever actually seen in my life.
We don’t even meet the beast in this rendition of Beauty and the Beast until about halfway through. I like the elements that felt like they had been inspired by older stories, rather than Disney. The magical servants aren’t personified household objects, for example. Beauty’s sisters, Lionheart and Jeweltongue (yep, those are their names,) have their own plot lines, both of which are honestly a bit more relatable and compelling than Beauty’s. I would absolutely read a whole book written about Lionheart. She was fun. I did like the relationships between the sisters and their father, but they didn’t change much. I would’ve enjoyed more focus on them all growing together through their hardships, since so much time was already spent on setting the story up.
She managed to create a beast who doesn’t give me heavy domestic abuser vibes, so that’s cool. Beauty is still weirdly chill about him having essentially kidnapped her, though. Her shifting opinion of him makes about as much sense as all the other conclusions she draws about the mysteries around her, in that it all has very little to do with the evidence we’re actually shown. That was what bothered me the most, by the end. She jumped to conclusions sometimes, and other times actively avoided answers that seemed obvious. When it was convenient, she would just forget things. It was also rarely clear what the stakes were, in this world that was so densely populated with magic and magical creatures. None of the rules for how the magic worked were remotely consistent, nor were they ever explained. I couldn’t even tell if the characters themselves had any better sense of how magic normally worked. Half the time, Beauty would come out of some trance or dream sequence and staunchly deny that it had been real. Of course, right after denying that her visions could be real, she calmly accepted being dressed by magical invisible servants, strolled through a constantly changing palace, and had dinner with a dude who had been turned into a giant monster. Her constant confusion and disbelief were pretty annoying, given that she had zero reason to doubt anything she saw or heard in this world where magic apparently has no limits.
I am, possibly, being overly nit-picky about believability in a story where the magic itself was clearly not the point, but if the point was the romance, then that also missed the mark. I was on board for a nice romantic story, but she had better chemistry with her sisters and the roses she tended than she did with the Beast. It was sweet, but not worth all the empty dialogue, deliberate misunderstandings, and odd side-plots that did nothing to advance or explain the main story.
I often recommend the audiobook versions of the stories I read, but in this case I think it just slowed everything down and made the dialogue more frustrating. I’d pick it up in print or as an ebook, unless you’re looking for something to help you sleep. That’s not snark, just a suggestion. This might be a great book for listening to at bedtime. It’s not violent, particularly action-filled, or creepy, and it has a fairly soothing rhythm. That’s rare enough to warrant mention.
So, that’s fun. I made this nifty banner, though. I’m fairly proud of those roses and I plan to put them everywhere. The castle kinda looks like a birthday cake to me, although my sister pointed out that maybe I’m looking at it wrong – maybe birthday cakes just look like castles.
I’ve had the most intense urge to play Minecraft the past few days, because my brain is just refusing to kick into gear. I know that that way lies literal mountains and caverns of wasted time, but it’s so tempting. This is the reason I haven’t installed it on my semi-new laptop yet. It would be so very bad. (But so good.)
Building games are totally my favorite, which is weird because I was never that into legos. Playing with physical toys seemed like a lot of effort to very lethargic young me. I did like Age of Empires, though. That shit was the best. I would herd all the deer and boar into pens and get annoyed if my clueless peasants ever shot them for food. Their lives were a sacrifice I was willing to make in order to build a tiny menagerie in the middle of a frozen wasteland with actual hordes of enemies on all sides. I graduated from this to ZooTycoon, which was also an excellent building game. Strangely, I never got into The Sims. They could’ve hooked me if they’d had more Thompson’s gazelles and velociraptors, I think.
I’d like to think all this means I was a creative kid, but I think it mostly means I liked to play god. In fact, now that I think about it, I also loved that game where you play an actual god with a giant monster pet that occasionally stomps your hapless villagers to death.
I dunno. Clearly writing is the career for me, since it is the ultimate license to build anything I can imagine and control all the little characters. Maybe my stories just need more popcorn kiosks and escaped lions.
Oh, I’ll be visiting my family next week, so that’ll be fun. I actually tend to get decent work done on trips, too, so that’s something to look forward to. There’s not much else to do for hours and hours but think, so I always get good ideas on the road. Who knows, maybe next week’s blog post will be on time and have actual content of some sort.