Today’s review is for A SPINDLE SPLINTERED by Alix E. Harrow. It’s a novella-length retelling of The Sleeping Beauty set in the present day. One of my favorite things about the physical copy is the illustrations used throughout from Arthur Rackham.
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Series: Fractured Fables, #1
Age Category: New Adult/Adult
Publish Date: October 5, 2021
Print Length: 128
*These are not affiliate links and I do not make a commission from any purchase made using these links.
USA Today bestselling author Alix E. Harrow’s A Spindle Splintered brings her patented charm to a new version of a classic story. Featuring Arthur Rackham’s original illustrations for The Sleeping Beauty, fractured and reimagined.
It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no-one has lived past twenty-one.
Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.
A SPINDLE SPLINTERED is a novella with a subversive, modern take on the classic western fairytale, THE SLEEPING BEAUTY. What grabbed me right away was the opening few paragraphs to the fable. Zinnia, the main character, calls it “aimless and amoral and chauvinistic as shit.” THE SLEEPING BEAUTY was actually my favorite of the classic Disney movies, so that opening hit me hard! (I also think I really loved it because the animation style is so distinctive.)
However, Zinnia has a valid point. But Harrow’s version of it gives agency back to the female lead of the story. Zinnia is the modern day equivalent of Sleeping Beauty, in a sense. Both the time in which she lives and her terminal illness spur on her motivation to experience life, which resulted in a strong will. When she suddenly finds herself in another Sleeping Beauty’s story, she encourages the princess not to fold, to fight for herself. In short, it’s about women uplifting and supporting other women. Charm fits the bill, too, always looking out for Zinnia and keeping her grounded.
The only part that fell a little flat for me was the explanation about the ability to fall through different worlds. I personally would have preferred it to err more on the side of magic rather than scientific theory. But I suppose the latter theory presented was to tie it back to Zinnia’s more contemporary world where there’s really no such thing as magic. (Or is there?)
That said, I loved the writing and the tone of the story: eloquently succinct and, at times, wry and blunt. Additionally, the incorporation of Arthur Rackham’s original illustrations from the fairytale was a lovely touch. It definitely made me feel like I was reading an “old timey” storybook. I also appreciated Harrow’s crash course included in the story about the different versions of THE SLEEPING BEAUTY throughout time. It reminded me of how characters in fairytales can be caricatures of maligned historical figures twisted into villains or idealized versions of gender roles. (The ending of THE DARK QUEENS introduced me to this concept.)
Overall, A SPINDLE SPLINTERED will entertain any fan of western fairytales turned upside down. This modern Sleeping Beauty has her own voice, a best friend named Charm in lieu of fairy godparents, and the gumption to take on the villain and uncover the truth.
Content warnings: terminal illness
Reading format: Hardback