I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
I have had the ARC of Harrow’s first novel for longer than I’d like to admit, and I still haven’t read it… However, with this one, I vowed to do better!
In A Spindle Splintered, Zinnia knows she only has a few months left to live, after having spent all her life with a sickness called Generalized Roseville Malady, which was caused by the polluted environment of her hometown. However, she’s had one thing to occupy herself: her passion for folklore, especially the various iterations of the Sleeping Beauty story. Then, on her birthday, she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel as a joke—and finds herself swept away to another universe, in a story that’s familiar, but just a little off. And once she’s there, she wonders if this is her chance to give her own story a different ending.
I went into this not knowing much about the plot, but all I needed to win me over was the blurb on the back that mentioned this is like the Sleeping Beauty version of Into the Spider-Verse. And really, what else did I need to know?
This is a really creative, fun, haunting story! Zinnia is full of wit and snark, quite a bit of melancholy, and a fierce determination to have control of her life, even if it’s a short one. I also really liked Primrose and Charm, and the chemistry between all of them was fantastic. The banter was great too, which is of course my weakness.
Harrow is great at crafting vivid settings, too. Everywhere, from the dark woods to the grand castle to the old abandoned tower in Zinnia’s hometown, feels equally tangible. And the pacing, even in such a short book, is flawless. I was so caught up in this world.
And I love the themes explored here. Zinnia, and indeed all the versions of Sleeping Beauty, might seem pretty helpless in their situations. But the way Harrow shows how so-called “damsels” can still be powerful and have agency was wonderful. It’s an empowering story, with a hopeful ending. In the end, this is a magical story through a multiverse, with fantastic characters, plenty of poignant moments, and a great air of mystery and adventure. The comparison to Spider-Verse is definitely justified, but this story works so well as its own thing, and as an homage to fairytales and princesses.
Overall rating: 8.7/10
A Spindle Splintered will be published on October 5th, 2021!