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Knot In The Grain And Other Stories, A [Paperback]

Robin Mckinley
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 1 1995

Lily. A woman with power to heal, but no powers of speech. Then she meets a mage---a man who can hear the words she forms only in her mind. Will he help her find her voice?

Ruen. A princess whose uncle leaves her deep in a cave to die at the hands of a stagman. But when she meets the stagman at last, Ruendiscovers fatehas a few surprises in store for her.

Erana, As a baby, she is taken be a witch in return for the healing herbs her father stole from the witch's garden. Raised alongsidethe witch's troll son, Erana learns that love comes in many forms.

Coral. A beautiful young newcomerwho catches the eye of an older widowed farmer.He can't believe his good fortune when Coral consents to be his wife. But then the doubts set in---what is it that draws Coral to Butter Hill?Annabelle. When her family moves, the summer befre her junior year of High School, Annabelle spends all her time in the attic of their new house--until she finds the knot in the gain which leads her on a magical mission.

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From Publishers Weekly

The strange, rich magic of fairy tales is amplified and made highly personal in five stories by Newbery Medalist McKinley ( The Hero and the Crown ). A pragmatic, unapologetic feminism infuses each tale: while McKinley's adventurous heroines certainly do not eschew love, neither do they pine after princes and castles. Instead, each of these down-to-earth young women actively seeks a partner--however unusual--who suits her. Lily, the mute heroine of "The Healer," meets a fallen mage who can understand her thoughts and eventually helps her regain her voice. In "The Stagman," Queen Ruen abandons her royal husband for the shape-changing beast that rescued her from her cruel uncle's abuse. A maiden in "Touk's House" rejects a prince's hand in marriage in favor of the turquoise-eyed half-troll she has known and, she comes to realize, has loved all her life. In the moving and exhilarating tale "Buttercups," the honesty and hard work of an old farmer and his much younger wife transform what could have been a supernatural disaster into a rare and fruitful blessing. The title story, set in contemporary upstate New York, chronicles both a girl's encounter with a mysterious box she finds hidden in a secret attic in her family's new house and her gradual, prosaic adjustment to life in a small town, far away from her old home and friends. A thrilling, satisfying and thought-provoking collection. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 7-12-The mythical world of Damar, featured in The Hero and the Crown (1984) and The Blue Sword (1982, both Greenwillow), is the setting for four of the five stories in this uneven collection. Damar's medieval atmosphere serves as a perfect backdrop for tales of magic and mysterious events. However, for those who haven't read the novels, there is little clarification of details that crop up from them. The sorcerer Luthe, an integral character in both Hero and Sword, appears in two of these stories, but his significance is not explained. The strength of plot development varies; it is at its best in "Touk's House." Less convincing is "The Stagman," in which the passive princess Ruen, rescued by the Stagman from her evil uncle who usurped her kingdom, now joins the beast/man, leaving her husband after 20 years of apparently happy marriage. The collection's anomaly, though delightful, is the title story. Set in the present day, it is the tale of a teenager who prevents the destruction of her small town by a superhighway-with the help of a mysterious box she finds in the attic. It is misplaced among the Damarian stories, but reveals this talented author's ability to utilize various settings, and whets readers' appetites for more modern-day fantasy from her. All in all, a mixed bag, but one that will be enjoyed by fans of McKinley's earlier books.
Mary Jo Drungil, Niles Public Library District, IL
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Little McKinley snacks Feb. 18 2003
This is a short story collection containing five stories: The Healer, The Stagman, Touk's House, Buttercups, and A Knot in the Grain. The first four stories are set in McKinley's Damar universe, the first three even feature Luthe. The last is a departure for her because it is set in modern times and doesn't have a very large fantasy element.
The Healer, is the story of a girl named Lilly who has the power to heal but is also mute. She meets a mage who can hear her telepathically and they set off on a journey to restore Lilly's speech. This is a fairly strong story and a great pick to start the book with. The characters are fleshed out well and the love story was enjoyable.
The Stagman, is about a princess named Ruen who is left, by her greedy uncle, as a sacrifice to a human/stag hybrid. Is the Stagman really as bad as people think he is? This is probably my favorite story in the collection. I liked all the characters and the plot was very interesting. It would have worked much better as a novel though. By the time the story was over there were still far to many unanswered questions.
Touk's House, is the story of a girl named Erana who was raised by a witch. As she grows up, she befriends and eventually falls in love with the witch's troll son. This is a fairly decent story. The plot is really interesting but it would have been much better if the characters had been developed a bit more.
Buttercups, is the story of a old farmer named Pos who marries a young girl named Coral. Pos loves his wife very much but has doubts about her affection for him because she spends too much time on buttercup hill. This is a cute story but it's, unfortunately, very boring.
A Knot in the Grain, is about a teenage girl named Annabelle who is forced to move away and leave behind her entire life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five excellent stories, previously hard to get April 7 2002
"The Healer" - First appeared in Terri Windling's _Elsewhere_, volume 2. Set on the Damarian continent. Lily, eldest of a large family, was born voiceless, though she and those who loved her learned to communicate by setting meanings to the birdsong she could whistle. The birds themselves came only to Lily's hands, though, and it was in Lily's presence that fevers broke and animals quieted while giving birth. So Lily apprenticed to Jolin, the healer serving Rhungill and the villages round about, and only one person cared that Lily couldn't talk - Lily herself. So when a chance-met stranger on the road answered Lily's thoughts with mindspeech, seeking an inn thereabouts, Lily brought him to the spare room at Jolin's, where travellers always put up, and hoped he might stay awhile.
Sahath, too, is sorely wounded by the lack of something - a mage who lost the greater part of his mage-strength years ago, when it drained away on a battlefield as armies lay dying at his feet. He's been wandering without a destination ever since. Has he found safe harbour at Jolin's? Are Lily and Jolin right to trust him? Can he or Lily find a way to regain what he lost and she never had?
"The Stagman" - First appeared in _Elsewhere_, volume 3. Set on the Damarian continent. Ruen grew up in her uncle's unkindly shadow after her parents died, leaving him as her Regent. He kept her isolated, and as uneducated as he dared, longing to take the throne in his own right but not wishing to make a martyr of her with murder. So in the days leading up to Ruen's eighteenth nameday, when she should have come into her queenship, the Regent uses his self-taught magery to create false signs and portents that will give him an excuse to do away with her.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 4/5 were good Dec 30 2000
By Kate
I liked all of the stories except for A Knot in the Grain. I think it was wonderful how she interwove 2/4 of the good stories (the Healer and the Stagman) they had intertwining characters that delighted me. Also, i like the fact that both those stories had characters that were connected to some of her other books like The Hero and the Crown, and The Blue Sword. All in all i thought that it was wonderful that she gave more backround and familiarity with characters from her other books. I thought that the REpunzal story was a different way to put things and to show that love comes in all forms and i loved the simplicity and purity of the story. Buttercups was a moving story that is well worthy of any praise and i loved it ( although not as much as the healer). A Knot in the Grain was a surprise however and somewhat dissapointing. It was too distant because it had no backround and wasnt connected to any other stories that i know of. She didn't let you know the characters like usual and the character wasn't strong enough that the distance would allow for it. But if any one wants to read a good story start with the hero and the crown and then move on to the Blue Sword :) they were the best of hers ive read so far (which isnt saying a lot :)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful simplicity Dec 13 2000
.... The collection's strength is the brevity and clarity of the stories, echoing the style of the true fairy tale but lending each tale a moral complexity which the transcribers of fairy tales often chose to deliberately overlook.
I particularly appreciated the second story (about the Stagman), a bittersweet tale of the conflict between duty and personal inclination. This is a common theme for McKinley; for lengthier treatments of it, see "The Stolen Princess" in _A Door in the Hedge_, or if you are brave read _Deerskin_, a very different tale of a princess who begins in a painfully similar situation.
Lest I be thought overly partial, I will add that I did not particularly care for the final story with the modern setting: not only was it jarringly juxtaposed, but the characterization was weaker and the writing less lyrical. It has been McKinley's only published work set in the "real" world.
Just as classic fairy tales are often directed at younger readers, not because they lack value but because their style enables them to transmit that value *even* to younger readers, so I would suggest that this book makes an excellent introduction to modern fantasy for young or hesitant readers who are not *quite* ready for lengthier reading. But it should not be overlooked by any reader who appreciates good fantasy.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but ultimately , Depressing?
I'm not sure what it was about these stories. I love Robin Mickinley stuff, and I've read practically everything she's ever written, and loved it! Read more
Published on April 23 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars A book I will cherish
This book has rapidly become one of my favorite short story collections of all time. I rate a book by the way I feel when I finish reading it. Read more
Published on Oct. 26 2002 by Stephanie Craddick
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not up to standard
I've read most of Robing McKinley's books and one of the things I've noticed is a feeling of the story coming to an end with most problems resolved but still leaving enough for the... Read more
Published on Oct. 5 2002 by Catherine DeMartino
4.0 out of 5 stars Great reading but not enough!
I love "The Blue Sword" and "Hero and the Crown" so was very anxious to read anything and everything related to Damar that I could find, and this book fit the... Read more
Published on Dec 22 2001 by Kim F.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Collection that Represents McKinley's Art
I was impressed by Robin McKinley's beautiful stories. I am more pleased by the beauty and composition of words along the way than the plots of these stories. Read more
Published on Aug. 8 2000 by Katie
2.0 out of 5 stars McKinley Should Stick To What She Does Best.
"A Knot in the Grain," was, in a nutshell, rather disappointing. I had never before thought of Robin McKinley as an author of short stories, and my opinion has not yet... Read more
Published on June 30 2000 by Emily J. Morris
3.0 out of 5 stars A Knot in the Book
As an ardent fan of McKinley's books, most especially her "A Door in the Hedge," I was eager to buy and read another collection of her original fairy tales. Read more
Published on May 8 2000 by Emily Snyder
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat disappointing
McKinley's "The Blue Sword" is one of my favorite books, and I've read almost all her other works, some of which I liked, some of which didn't excite my interest. Read more
Published on Feb. 2 2000
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I read this book because I had enjoyed McKinley's the Hero and the Crown and the Blue Sword. The only story worth reading in the book was the Healer. Read more
Published on Jan. 9 2000
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