A Spindle Splintered (Fractured Fables, #1) by Alix E. Harrow
Published by Tordotcom
Publication date: October 5, 2021
I often talk about diverse reading or reading outside my comfort zone, but it’s usually about heavy novels on difficult topics (like last week’s We Are Not Like Them), but how about FUN reading that falls in genres you don’t normally read? Such as fantasy or more specifically, fairy tales. We all know about Sleeping Beauty, but what if she were a young woman about to turn 21 who was going to fall asleep forever due to a rare disease rather than a witch’s curse? That’s the premise in Alix Harrow’s A Spindle Splintered, a marvelously creative reconstruction of a tale that was fine for its time, but could use some freshening up.
Zinnia Gray’s genes were compromised by corporate negligence involving chemical waste. No one with her disease has lived past the age of 21 so she’s rushed to get as much life in before time runs out. Her circumstances have fed her fascination with women dying young in folklore which led to her major in college and graduating two years early. For her 21st birthday her best friend Charm throws her a party in a deserted tower with an antique spinning wheel to mimic the Sleeping Beauty tale. After too many drinks, Zinnia jokingly pricks her finger on its spindle. All hell breaks loose as Zinnia slides out of this world and into one that’s both familiar and unreal.
A world where the real princess from the fairy tale lives. Zinnia saves her from her fate only to realize that maybe it wasn’t a curse. That maybe the alternatives for Princess Primrose’s life were not so great either. This is just the first step A Spindle Splintered takes in dissecting and ultimately dismantling the Sleeping Beauty myth. Harrow bridges the alternative fabled world with today’s magic wand—the smart phone. Despite being in a different reality Zinnia is able to text her brilliant friend Charm to help her out, but the battery and her options are dwindling.
This might sound juvenile or for younger readers, but while it’s not literary fiction A Spindle Splintered is ageless in its themes. Depending on how old you are it will feel familiar. I grew up reading fairy tales that were variations on the same premise: Young women cursed by (older) witches and only a man could save them. What’s wrong with that? Actually, what’s right about that?
I’m not going to jump on a soapbox about the problematic themes in historical European Folk Tales nor is Harrow. This is fun, empowering reading, imaginatively written, and at less than 150 pages not a major time commitment. Even better, A Spindle Splintered is the first book in Harrow’s new series, Fractured Fables. If you want to relax and read an alternative to the traditional tales we knew as children then this is a wonderful choice.
If you like to read classics updated for modern times I also enjoyed The Charmed Wife by Olga Grushin.
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