Book Review

A Spindle Splintered

A Spindle Splintered

  • Author: Alix E. Harrow
  • Genre: Fantasy/Fairy Tale Retelling
  • Publication Date: October 5, 2021
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio
  • Series: Fractured Fables #1

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ALC of this audiobook. I am offering my honest opinion voluntarily.

CONTENT WARNING: implied rape, implied abortion

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

“Sleeping Beauty is the worst fairy tale, pretty much any way you slice it. It’s aimless and amoral and chauvinist as shit. Even among the other nerds who majored in folklore, Sleeping Beauty is nobody’s favorite. The romantic girls like Beauty and the Beast; basic girls like Cinderella; goth girls like Snow White. Only the dying girls like Sleeping Beauty.”

It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is an extra-special occasion, because it’s the last she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, but the main fact for Zinnia is that no one who has it has lived to twenty-two.

Her best friend is intent on making Zin’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, she founds herself cast into another world, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.

So, Sleeping Beauty isn’t a fairy tale that gets retold too often, as far as I’m aware, and with good reason. Because it’s a pretty sucky story as far as fairy tales go. But this book kind of changed my mind about it. It puts a decidedly feminist spin on a tired and chauvinistic story and makes it exciting and intriguing.

Zinnia has a fatal illness that leaves her doomed to die young. A curse, you might even say. Naturally, Sleeping Beauty is the fairy tale that she gravitates towards. So on the night of her 21st birthday, fated to be her last, her best friend Charm sets up an elaborate Sleeping Beauty themed birthday party. But … it sends her into the multiverse and shoots her into an alternate universe where she’s presented with Primrose, another girl who is another sleeping beauty. 

They quickly team up and work to undo the curse on Primrose. Things never go smoothly, and of course everything goes south rather quickly. Zinnia discovers that like all fairy tales, things aren’t what they seem and everything is open to interpretation. And … not all princesses want a hero prince to dash in and save them. Although Zinnia has studied fairy tales in the academic world, she now has to view them in a different light:

“‘You are accustomed to thinking of fairy tales as make-believe.’ Doctor Bastille looked straight at me as she said it, her face both searing and compassionate. ‘But they have only ever been mirrors.’”

In addition to the chronic illness representation, there’s some awesome lesbian representation in the story, which was a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t quite sure how the girls were going to solve the issue, but the way things worked out was another pleasant surprise. It’s very much a feminist story and I was HERE FOR IT. Alix E. Harrow is an amazing storyteller, and my biggest complaint about this one was that it was SHORT. I was expecting a longer story, and was surprised when the audiobook clocked in at 3 hours and 20 minutes. I’m excited at the idea of more of these fractured fables, though. 

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 4

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