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The Door in the Hedge    by Robin McKinley order for
Door in the Hedge
by Robin McKinley
Order:  USA  Can
Firebird, 2003 (1981)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is a reissue of a collection of four short stories (fairytale re-tellings) by Robin McKinley, one of my all-time favorite fantasy authors, and one who has always had the knack of putting a human face on faerie.

The Stolen Princess is set in the last mortal kingdom bordering on faerie, a place whose folk live with the risk of baby sons, and daughters in their late teens, being stolen. Queen Alora, whose lovely twin sister Ellian was taken on her seventeenth birthday, bears a daughter late in life and names her Linadel. Alora dreads her daughter's seventeenth birthday, but when the strong-willed Linadel is taken to faerie, the 'door in the hedge' is opened and faerie and humankind change forever.

In The Princess and the Frog, the author gives us a fearful princess in a court menaced by dark sorceror prince Aliyander. She finds comfort, and later rescue, from a talking 'big green frog', who is remarkably sympathetic to her plight. It's a charming re-telling, my favorite part of which is the fact that the princess, though terrified, does manage to take action that is instrumental in saving the day.

A prince sickens almost unto death after hunting a beautiful, uncanny creature in The Hunting of the Hind. It's his small half-sister Korah, ignored and neglected by all but her beloved big brother, who rides to the rescue and discovers that the hind herself was ensorcelled. Korah's own nature, and her father's lack of love for her, give her the skills needed to rescue her brother and win her own place.

My favorite in this collection is The Twelve Dancing Princesses. The hero is untypical, a soldier prematurely aged by war and care, 'weary and sad at heart, with a sadness that had no hope in it anywhere.' His help for an old crone wins him a cloak of invisibility, which allows him to discover where the princesses dance all night. When he frees them, he picks the eldest - and most resolute - as his bride.

The Door in the Hedge is a charming collection for young and old - just what's needed to while away a few weary hours.

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