Overview (No Spoilers):
Fairytale retellings will always hold a soft spot in my literature loving heart. From The Witcher series, to The Lunar Chronicles, The Thousand Stitches, and Uprooted, I’ve loved nearly all of the reworkings I’ve read, especially when they contain a novel take on the original.
When viewed through the modern eye, the original nostalgic Disney stories lose some of their magical glow, especially when the role of women is brought into focus. Considering Harrow’s first two novels, The Ten Thousand Doors of January and The Once and Future Witches, it should be no surprise that her reimagining of Sleeping Beauty tackles these issues head on, all the while creating a unique, modern adaptation that takes everything one loves about the original and makes it exponentially more intriguing.
A Splintered Spindle follows the tragic story of Zinnia who has suffered since birth from an industrial contamination derived malady where those infected never survive past the age of 22. Knowing her health has a set expiration date, Zinnia has tried to live her life to the fullest, but on her 21st birthday she can’t shake the feeling she is running out of time. Her best friend, Charm, plans a perfect Sleeping Beauty birthday party, which has been an obsession since childhood, to try to cheer her up. From this party, Harrow catapults the story into the fairytale realm where she adds a much needed modern tune-up to the familiar story, especially in regard to the roles women are relegated. Not to mention, she even managing to throw a multiverse into the mix along the way. The effect is genuinely delightful and was the kickass fairytale I needed. This quote alone sums up the overall feel of the fantastical adventure Harrow has treated us to, “Let’s not pretend girls with swords don’t get shit done.”
While Zinnia was on her trip of a lifetime, she was able to communicate back with Charm and her parents using her cellphone that somehow still had a signal. It was a fun twist from normal portal stories, where both parties are alarmed due to an abrupt disappearance. The two way communication reminded me of the premise behind the fun improv podcast, Welcome to the Magic Tavern where a man falls through a portal (behind a Burger King), but manages to still have his cellphone to communicate with his family on his adventure.
Overall, despite being a short read, A Splintered Spindle was a highly enjoyable upgrade on the familiar tale of Sleeping Beauty that will keep the reader guessing with each twist and turn.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- The ending was ‘happy’ with Zinnia’s prognosis reversing for the moment, however I couldn’t help but be sad when thinking about all of the other children who suffered from the same malady who were still dying or had already passed.
- Zinnia’s struggle with her mortality was well captured by Harrow and not often explored in fantasy.
- Charm and Primrose’s romance was a bit eye roll inducing, though appropriate for a true fairytale adaptation.
- I loved the twist regarding the “evil” fairy/witch/enchantress”. Will we get to see her again?
- Primrose was one of my favorite characters! I want more stories of how she adapted to Charm’s world. How would they get around her not having a birth certificate?
- The multiverse holds so much potential for expanding this literary creation. I loved that there was no prince charming, instead other ‘Sleeping Beauties” came to the rescue.