Author: Chris Riddell, Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
First Published: October 22, 2013
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Feminist Fiction, Young Adult
On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future - and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents.
The Sleeper and the Spindle was a wonderful surprise and I’m so happy that I picked this book up. The story is a fairy tale reimagining of both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, taking place after Snow was saved and awaiting her wedding day to the prince. In this version of Snow White, she finds herself feeling trapped by the prospects of marriage and makes a decision for herself to become the hero of someone else’s story.
“’A week from today, I shall be married.’ It seemed both unlikely and extremely final. She wondered how she would feel to be a married woman. It would be the end of her life, she decided, if life was a time of choices. In a week from now, she would have no choices.”
I really enjoyed this feminist twist on Snow’s character, a clear rebellion against traditional princess tropes. The story is told with a simple yet lyrical tone that reminded me of the styles in which many classical fairy tales are written. The story is intentionally written in this way as a direct subversion of classical views of fairy tale princesses and happily ever after endings.
Besides the story, the artwork by Riddell is marvelously dark and detailed, they added so much to the book and were one of my favorite parts about it. The illustrations are definitely a necessary element of the presentation that makes this book memorable. The story is still good without them, but it would not have had the same impact, the art really added to the reading experience.
As a side note, this story is romance free and is not a lesbian fairy tale retelling, despite what the beautiful panel shown above might lead folks to believe. I don’t want to spoil the plot in any way, but I also wanted to make readers aware of this fact before going in and finding themselves disappointed. I’ve seen a few reviewers slam this novella because they expected a lesbian romance and were mad when there was no romance to be found.
The lack of romance didn’t bother me in the least, in fact, it was something I enjoyed about the story. For a book that clearly highlights the fear of being shackled by love and marriage, another romance would have been an odd thing to include in the story. Overall I love this novella, it was a refreshing retelling that I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend for folks that enjoy the classics. It’s a quick read and the gorgeous illustrations are worth a glance on their own.