Novella Review: A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 1 of Fractured Fables
Publisher: Tor.com (October 5, 2021)
Length: 128 pages
So, this is going to be a relatively short review seeing as A Spindle Splintered was a pretty short read, but the story was nevertheless very enjoyable despite its limited length and scope. As the first novella in Alix E. Harrow’s new series offering fresh and unique takes on classic fairy tales, it does a good job of setting the tone for what’s to come!
In the introduction, we meet Zinnia Gray on her twenty-first birthday. While most young people her age would be out celebrating this momentous milestone with carefree abandon, our protagonist is just happy to be still alive. Pretty soon, she knows she will be dead because of an illness that is killing her, and despite the years of medication and treatment to try to control its effects, as far as our protagonist knows, no one with the disease ever lives long enough to see twenty-two.
In the face of this gloomy prognosis, however, Zinnia’s best friend Charm is determined to give her a birthday to remember. Knowing that her friend is obsessed with Sleeping Beauty, Charm has gone to lengths to arrange a surprise party in an abandoned tower, complete with an old spinning wheel. Impressed with the tableau, Zinnia decides to go full out on the experience by pricking her finger on the spindle, but when she does, something strange happens. Suddenly, she is transported to another world where she meets Primrose, a princess desperate to escape her own fate.
At its heart, A Spindle Splintered is a coming-of-age tale, though a somewhat unique one, seeing as our protagonist is preparing for her death rather than looking forward to the future. Is it any wonder that from a young age she has developed a fascination for Sleeping Beauty, whose story holds some remarkable parallels with her own? Much like the fictional princess who is destined to fall to a curse, Zinnia feels a sense of helplessness to change the cards that she’s been dealt. Admittedly, she is also very harsh in her critique of the fairy tale, but loves it all the same because her ability to relate to the character. Which is why, after breaking through to an alternate reality to come face to face with Primrose, a real-life Sleeping Beauty in the flesh, an immediate bond is forged between the two of them despite coming from very different worlds.
I also enjoyed Harrow’s handling of the story and its themes. While I’m a fan of her novels The Ten Thousand Doors of January and The Once and Future Witches, I certainly wasn’t expecting the same level of depth or character development from this novella, but I was impressed all the same. True, the shorter format was a limiting factor, but the author has still managed to pack a surprising amount into the story’s modest page count of 128 pages. Along with a new and imaginative approach to the Sleeping Beauty, there is also a refreshing, rather hopeful message embedded in the narrative arc for Zinnia, in which she makes some surprising discoveries about herself. There’s even room for some quirky and upbeat humor, which is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Bottom line, I had a fun time with A Spindle Splinted, so it’s probably safe to say this compact little novella managed to succeed in its goals. Its bite-sized format was not as restrictive as it could have been, thanks to fantastic plotting and storytelling on the author’s part as well as a great sense of humor. The book certainly could have been longer, but I was also glad to find out that Zinnia’s tale will be continuing in the next installment, A Mirror Mended.