Review: The Sleeper and the Spindle

The fairy tale is such an underrated genre for adults. I think sometimes when we talk about fairy tales we forget just how twisted the genre was at the beginning, and that many of the original stories weren’t intended for children.

This one isn’t quite so grotesque, and while there isn’t anything that would automatically rule it out as a book for children (sex, violence, the usual), it’s clear that Gaiman wrote this with an adult audience in mind.

It all starts with Snow White, who is preparing to marry Prince Charming after being revived from the sleeping spell. But the day before her wedding, she receives word of a kingdom that has been plagued by a sleeping curse for decades. She decides to venture into the mountains with her dwarven companions, as much to avoid her wedding as to save the kingdom.

When Snow White and the dwarves arrive at a village at the edge of the kingdom, they discover that the sleep has been progressing faster, and that it started at the castle when a witch cursed the princess.

Naturally, the cursed princess is kept in the tallest room of the tower, which is guarded by massive overgrowths of thorny rosebushes.

I’ll leave the rest for when you (hopefully) read the story yourself, because even though the beginning of the tale gets off to a slow start, it really picks up and I find it is best read with few expectations.

What I enjoyed most about this story were all the role-reversals. Everything about this book subverts the cliches we have come to expect from fairy tales. Plus Riddell’s illustrations are amazing and creepy.

My only complaint is that there are several abrupt jumps from one scene to another, with no indication other than a page break. This might not be an issue for some readers, but it threw me off, and forced me to reread a paragraph or two to re-situate myself.


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