“SPINDLE,” by E. K. Johnston, Disney-Hyperion, Dec. 6, 2016, Hardcover, $18.99 (young adult)
I’ve read a number of retellings of “Sleeping Beauty,” but nothing could have prepared me for E. K. Johnston’s “Spindle,” which flips the classic fairy tale firmly on its head.
Once upon a time, there was a storyteller queen who drove a demon out of her husband and saved her country at the same time. The queen’s family prospered and grew into two kingdoms, each on either side of the mountains where the demon was imprisoned. There the monster dwelled for years upon years until finally the prison began to crumble and the creature began to regain its power. There, the demon stayed, biding its time until the perfect moment — the birth of a child…
Little Rose did nothing but be born, and yet that is enough to bring upon her both blessings and a curse. And it’s that curse that reaches far beyond a princess pricking her finger on a spindle.
“Spindle” is the story of Little Rose aka Sleeping Beauty, but that’s just one small aspect of E. K. Johnston’s tale. The story is not told by Rose or the demon or even an objective narrator. Rather, it is told by Yashaa, the son of a spinner who is exiled along with all the other spinners when the curse is pronounced. It is Yashaa who seeks to end the curse and it is he who becomes the hero of this unexpected story.
“Spindle” is a companion novel to “A Thousand Nights,” which is the retelling of “Arabian Nights.” The demon in both books is one in the same. That said, however, each book stands alone.
I love Johsnston’s approach to this beloved fairy tale. Too often, the princess takes precedence, and while Rose is still a key player, Yashaa is the star. The story was familiar and completely new at the same time. The setting is also an unexpected surprise. Instead of taking place in a European setting, “Spindle” takes place in a more exotic location — based on Johnston’s description, I imagined a Persian or Arabian landscape.
If you’re a fan of fairy tales or just an imaginative narrative, then “Spindle” is a good choice for you.
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