Alix E. Harrow's A SPINDLE SPLINTERED - A Twist on the Sleeping Beauty Story
by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)
I picked up Alix E. Harrow's A Spindle Splintered (Amazon | Bookshop.org) for two reasons: (1) I loved her novel The Ten Thousand Doors of January (Amazon | Bookshop.org) and (2) I love a good fairytale retelling. (Check out our most recent episode, all about fairytale retellings, for more recs along these lines.)
This slim book—it's only 128 pages—is a retelling or remix of the Sleeping Beauty story (one of my favorites). Here, the protagonist, Zinnia Gray, is turning 21 and celebrating more (and differently) than most people do. She has a rare medical condition that results in early death . . . and nobody has ever made it past 21. She's tried to take advantage of the time she has—she's even earned an advanced degree with a focus on (of course!) fairytales and, in particular, on Sleeping Beauty. She sees parallels between her own fate and that of the cursed princess.
Since Zinnia has always been obsessed with the story of Sleeping Beauty, her best friend Charm plans a surprise party for her in a tower with a spinning wheel. And, well, there's a portal. So, Zinnia finds herself in a REAL Sleeping Beauty story. There's a lot of fun with Zinnia adjusting to her new world and getting to know the young woman who is Sleeping Beauty. But then, the story takes a turn and considers the real implications of the story (the prince and the sleeping princess are highly problematic!).
There are plenty of twists here, including a feminist take on the original story, some fun with portals, and that scholarly consideration of Sleeping Beauty, which I just reveled in. Zinnia is mouthy and modern and funny, but she's also grateful for the brief reprieve from the solemnity of her approaching death that this trip through a portal has offered. She loves her parents, but she feels that they're often more focused on her sickness and death than they are on her life. For now, she's among people where she can actually live.
This is a novella perfect for those who love fairytales or feminist books or just some good fantasy, but even without all of those trappings, it's a book about Zinnia who is fighting to enjoy every moment of her life.
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