This is technically a reread, as I read it some time ago when I found it at the library, when I was devouring anything Robin McKinley. My mother found it used, and it passed it along to me when she was done with it, as she knows I’m collecting McKinley’s book when I find them (and I’ve never seen this one in a bookstore).
The book consists of five short stories, four in McKinley’s imaginary world of Damar, and one set in the real world. Like most of the time I read or reread one of her books, I’m struck by the thought of wishing she’d write more. (Though I’m very excited that she does have a new book coming out this year.) I’ve actually seen her speak, and understand why she doesn’t write more often, and judging by some of my favorite authors who do put out a ton of books, I think I’m actually glad that she only writes when the muse strikes, but I wish that were more often.
I love McKinley’s language. I can’t define it anymore than that, but there’s something very comforting about reading one of her books. They’re like old friends.
My favorite story in the anthology is A Knot in the Grain, which is the story set in the real world. It’s the story of a girl who’s forced to move to a new town before her junior year of high school, and it’s remarkably timeless in its portrayal of Annabelle and the other teenagers in the book. She’s definitely woven a tale that will be perfectly understandable to a 16-year-old in another 20 years from today. (I believe it’s even been ten years since it was written.) You could argue that this story isn’t even a fantasy story, but the whole atmosphere weaves wonderfully with the magical stories that precede it.