Years ago I read Beauty by Robin McKinley, which is a retelling of the fairytale Beauty and the Beast. I don't remember a lot about the book, but I do remember that I really liked it and for a time it was a favorite. Recently I saw mention of Beauty on another book blog and my interest in McKinley's books was once again sparked.
I chose The Door in the Hedge because I understood it held a long time favorite of mine, the story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. But I was in for a surprise because the book is not just the retelling of the dancing princesses, but a collection of four fairytales.
The first tale is The Stolen Princess and is about a kingdom that borders the land of Faery. The subjects of the kingdom suffer year in and year out when the fairies come and steal away their children (boys as infants and girls at the age of 17). After the second princess is stolen on her 17th birthday the royal family decides enough is enough and sets out through the door in hedge to the land of Faery to find and recover the princess. Along the way they solve man a mystery and peace comes at last to the kingdom and the land of Faery. (Although nothing like it, The Stolen Princess did remind me the movie Stardust, but only in the sense that a "wall" separated the mortals from the faeries and the story climax is when the mortals cross over in search of the answer to a mystery in the land of faeries.)
The second tale is a retelling of The Frog Princess called, The Princess and the Frog. While this story is fairly straightforward, it is a short and unique version and unlike the others I've read.
The third tale is The Hunting of the Hind and is the story of Princess Korah's heroics in saving her kingdom and more particularly her brother, the Crown Prince. Korah's kingdom has been plagued with rumors of a beautiful Hind (deer) that when seen by a hunter will drive him insane. It is when the Crown Prince goes hunting and returns deathly ill and out of his mind that Korah sets out to find the Hind and put an end to its mysterious spell and bring happiness and peace to her kingdom.
The fourth and last tale is The Twelve Dancing Princesses. This story follows the traditional version was definitely my favorite of all four tales.
Overall I thought the story collection contained in The Door in the Hedge was ok, but not McKinley's best work and nothing to compare with what I remember of Beauty. Not to say that Robin McKinley doesn't have a gift for the telling and retelling of fairytales, because she does. Her books are pure fairytale/folklore fantasy, but this one just wasn't as good as I hope it would be. McKinley's books are written and intended for young readers (ages 9-12) and perhaps a younger reader would have enjoyed The Door in the Hedge more than I. Personally I would suggest readers unfamiliar with McKinley's works should start with a copy of Beauty.
On a scale of 1-5, 1 being horrible and 5 being excellent I would rate The Door in the Hedge a 2.5. It was ok, but if you wish to read it I'd suggest borrowing from your library rather than buying... unless you're a fan of McKinley and own her books.
In spite of my opinion of The Door in the Hedge, I'm not giving up. Sometime in the future I would like to read McKinley's re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, Spindles End, so stay tuned.