A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow – Review by @Arcana_Reads

After three back-to-back shitty books (may review them later or erase them from memory altogether), the universe decided to reward me. (thank you, fairy godmother!)

I’ve read a few fairy tale re-tellings over the years, and they are either extremely irritating or utterly magnificent (ps: do check out Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver for a haunting take on Rumpelstiltskin).

Harrow has re-imagined Sleeping Beauty or as it is better known as, “..pretty much the worst fairy tale, any way you slice it.” That was the first sentence of the book btw. Hook, line and sinker right??

Twenty-one year old Zinnia Gray has a wickedly dry humour and a penchant for imminent death. Oh, and she’s obsessed with Sleeping Beauty. Because as she says it, “Romantic girls like Beauty and the Beast, vanilla girls like Cinderella; goth girls like Snow White. Only dying girls like Sleeping Beauty.”

If you think this book is a paean to the classic, hold on to your smelling salts. Harrow’s Gray tears apart the fable – ridiculing the notion of a princely rescue, harkening back to darker versions where the kiss wasn’t just a kiss and the evil witch being probably a case of bad branding.

Harrow gives power back to the women – those damsels in distress on whom the entire story hinges and yet don’t get to choose their happy endings. Those stories dressed up in glittery ball gowns, sparkling jewels, stately castles or anthropomorphized woodland creatures, in which the woman’s fate is determined by usually, an idiot. Agency, returned!

Think of it, if you’re cursed and can be rescued by the kiss — that’s all well and fine, but do you really “want” the kiss or “need” the kiss? I mean I gotta take meds when I’m sick but do I need to fall in love with my meds and marry it? Why would you inextricably link the two and create a picture that all that every woman craves is the touch of a prince?

My favourite part of the book is Gray and Charm’s friendship – a stubbornly acerbic love that digs its heels into fate willing to stop the inevitable. It’s the stuff dreams are made of! There are rare books in which brilliant authors manage to weave in complexity and depth – whether in character development or world-building – in a few sentences. Stuff others need pages to convey. Spindle Splintered is a short book but Harrow makes you root for every woman in it. A wonderfully sensitive tale for the modern woman. Definitely recommend.

Rating: 5/5

This book review is by @arcana_reads (Click to follow on Instagram).

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