It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.
Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.
“Sleeping Beauty is pretty much the worst fairy tale, any way you slice it.”
Which may have been the case, until Alix E. Harrow arrived and threw in feminism, queer characters & multiverse theory. A Spindle Splintered is a story for people who love fairy tales, but always wanted a better ending for the characters, and if I wasn’t already on the Alix E. Harrow admiration train, I definitely would be after reading this!
Zinnia Grey’s 21st birthday isn’t like most people’s, if only because she isn’t expected to see 22. The disease ravaging her body is slowly but surely killing her, and knowing this her best friend Charm has ensured she goes out with a bang creating a Sleeping Beauty themed party complete with spindle, but when Zinnia goes to prick her finger something strange happens, she finds herself in the place between worlds flying between different versions of Sleeping Beauty, until she tumbles straight into one, changing her and Princess Primroses lives forever.
Zinnia’s character is hilarious, humbling and sometimes a little heartbreaking. Living with the weight of her upcoming death has made her both long for and refuse to make connections, the only people she lets close are her family and Charm (and that’s mainly cause Charm would kick her arse if she ever tried to break up their friendship.) She feels she hasn’t lived a life for herself, instead staying close to home, having to deal with the pained look in her parents eyes every time they look at her. There’s no denying she’s a fighter, and this foray into fairy tales has given her a hope she hasn’t felt in a very long time, but she’s also a realist, and she realises that though she may not be able to save herself, she can make damn sure that no other Sleeping Beauty has to give into their fate.
Apart from Primrose, the Princess whose universe Zinnia unwittingly finds herself in, and Charm her bestie who is back home freaking the fuck out and using all the science she knows to work out what the hell happened, the rest of the characters only have a minor role, but that doesn’t stop them from having a huge impact. There was a certain part of the book when, lets say, the multiverse expanded and I squealed with glee. Think of all the different re-telling’s of sleeping beauty you may have read, and imagine what might happen if they all came crashing together. Any one seen Shrek 3? Well lets just say I got some serious fighting princess vibes…
This isn’t the sleeping beauty tale we all know, it’s feminist, it’s queer and it’s about how far you will go to escape your fate. In true Harrow fashion it shows the strength of women when we work together to defy the social constructs that are constantly used to define and hold us down. It shows us that the ‘baddy’ isn’t always quite what they seem, and that you can fight your destiny if it’s not what you want. It’s whimsical, magic filled, a little witty and sarcastic at times, but it’s also incredibly heartfelt and there were plenty of moments when I found myself tearing up.
A Spindle Splintered is a quick and easy read, but no less impactful because of it. I’m really excited to see what other fairy tales the author will tackle with this series, and know I will love them just as much as this.
“For everyone who deserves a better story than the one they have.”