Title: A Spindle Splintered Author: Alix E. Harrow Publisher: Tordotcom Publication date: October 5, 2021 Length: 128 pages Genre: Fairy tale/ fantasy Source: Purchased Rating:
Rating: 5 out of 5.
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.
USA Today bestselling author Alix E. Harrow’s A Spindle Splintered brings her patented charm to a new version of a classic story.
THIS is the way to write a novella — short, sweet, spare, and totally on point.
In A Spindle Splintered, we meet Zinnia Gray on the cusp of what she’s sure will be her last birthday. Thanks to her rare genetic condition, her death is inescapable, and as she explains to people who ask her about future plans, she’s just running out the clock.
Because of her condition, Zinnia has tried to accelerate as much of her life as she can, finishing high school and then college early, getting a degree in folklore, never forgetting that for all her life, she’s been in the process of dying. And maybe because of that, fairy tales in general and Sleeping Beauty in particular are her obsessions.
Even among the other nerds who majored in folklore, Sleeping Beauty is nobody’s favorite. Romantic girls like Beauty and the Beast; vanilla girls like Cinderella; goth girls like Snow White.
Only dying girls like Sleeping Beauty.
In a moment of utter weirdness, Zinnia pricks her finger on the spinning wheel her best friend Charm (short for Charmaine) has set up for her birthday. Suddenly, Zinnia finds herself between worlds, finally landing in one in which an impossibly beautiful princess is calling for help. Primrose is a more traditional version of a Sleeping Beauty, cursed at birth to fall into a 100-year slumber on her 21st birthday — but thanks to Zinnia’s intervention, her doom seems to be avoided, yet she’s left to face a different sort of doom, getting married off to the perfect prince, much to her dismay.
Primrose and Zinnia set off on a quest to break both their curses, but nothing is really as it seems. The story culminates in a terrific action sequence and ends with plenty of surprises, while also leaving the door open for further tales.
I love the writing, the characters, the inventiveness of the storytelling, and the overall attitude and tone. I don’t always get along with novellas, often feeling like I’ve been left without the full picture and that I’ve read a synopsis rather than a full story. That’s not the case in A Spindle Splintered.
This novella reads just like a fairy tale, plus the modern elements make the characters relatable and bring humor even to totally grim (Grimm?) situations.
“Well, Harold,” I say gently. “They’re lesbians.”
(I’m not going to provide any context for that quote — just know that it’s perfect and made me laugh.)
The book has beautiful woodcut illustrations from the traditional Arthur Rackham versions of the story. You can see some of these here — scroll down to get to the woodcuts. These illustrations enhance the magical fairy tale elements of the story, and make the entire book feel classic, even in the more contemporary scenes.
I loved A Spindle Splintered, and can’t wait for the next book in the author’s Fracture Fables series,:
A Spindle Splintered is a delight. Don’t miss it!
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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Books on My Fall 2021 To-read List. It’s so hard to stick with just 10! There are so many books I’m dying to read… but for purposes of this list, I’m sticking with upcoming new releases this time around.
Looks like my October and November will be especially busy!
Going by release date (except for #1), my top 10 are:
Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon
Release date: November 23rd
The book I’m most excited for! My family will have to excuse my anti-social obsessive reading behavior over Thanksgiving.
Horseman by Christina Henry
Release Date: September 28th
Ambush or Adore by Gail Carriger
Release date: October 1st
The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley
Release date: October 5th
A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
Release date: October 5th
A Twist of Fate by Kelley Armstrong
Release date: October 5th
Well Matched by Jen DeLuca
Release date: October 19th
Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest
Release date: October 26th
Gilded by Marissa Meyer
Release date: November 2nd
Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult
Release date: November 30th
What books are on your TTT list this week? Please share your links!
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2021. I just recently did a top 10 list of my summer TBR, which included mostly new releases, so I’ll attempt not to repeat myself!
Any Way the Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell – the 3rd Simon Snow book! (July 6)
The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig (July 20 )
My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones (August 31)
When Sorrows Come by Seanan McGuire — the 15th October Daye book! (September 14)
Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune (September 21)
The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley — I will ALWAYS read a new novel by this author! (October 5)
A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow (October 5)
Well Matched by Jen DeLuca — the 3rd book in the series. These books are so cute! (October 19)
Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest (October 26)
Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon — It’s the new Outlander book!! After a 7 year wait! (November 23)
What are your most anticipated new releases for the 2nd half of 2021? Do we have any in common?
Title: The Once and Future Witches Author: Alix E. Harrow Publisher: Orbit Publication date: October 13, 2020 Length: 528 pages Genre: Historical fiction/fantasy Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 5 out of 5.
In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.
But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.
There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.
Alix E. Harrow’s debut novel, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, was one of my favorite reads last year, so it’s a pleasure to have another amazing experience with her newest book, The Once and Future Witches.
The Once and Future Witches takes place in 1893, in a world similar to our own, but with some key differences. Chief among these is the history of witchcraft — a plague and a purge some years earlier have resulted in the complete annihilation of witches or witchcraft, or so the men in power would like people to believe.
While the knowledge and power of witches seem to be lost, grandmothers and mothers still pass down to their daughters the little words and ways that make life easier, from simple spells to help with cleaning or harvest to healing rituals and ways to escape from someone who means you ill. In this world, what we’d call fairy tales are known as witch tales, and they’re regarded as simple folklore, merely children’s entertainment. But for the women who tell the stories, they know there’s something more hidden in the simple words and songs.
Our main characters are the three Eastwood sisters — Beatrice Belladonna, Agnes Amaranth, and James Juniper. While raised on a family farm, they now as adults find themselves drawn together in the town of New Salem after a long separation caused by their abusive father.
When the three sisters are reunited, Bella inadvertently triggers a momentary return of the lost ways, creating both a public scare and an inspiration for women who long for more. The story is set at a time when women are rallying for the right to vote, and workers’ rights are also front and center in the wake of awful mill and factory conditions and the abject poverty of New Salem’s underclass.
The Eastwood sisters soon lead a growing underground movement of women who are willing to risk everything to rediscover their own power and make a place for themselves in their world. But there are forces working against them, who will use whatever means necessary to silence their voices and make sure they keep to their approved places.
This is a powerful, uplifting, and complicated read. At over 500 pages, the story is intricate, with ample detail on the world of New Salem, the sisters’ histories, the witch-tales handed down, and the allies and friends they make in the battle for their rights and their lives. The writing is beautiful, with magical realism in its imagery mixed with the brutality of the slums and factories and the tired lives of the women looking for more.
I love how the quest to reclaim witchcraft melds so well with the fight for the vote, for equal rights and better working conditions. The characters here are distinct and memorable — upright librarian Bella and her unexplored passions, independent Agnes and her devotion to protecting what’s hers, Juniper with her fierce, feral nature and her readiness to fight. The sisters are amazing, as are the other women (and one man) who populate their story.
Likewise, the relationships between the sisters is gorgeously depicted. There is a lifetime’s worth of hurt and betrayal and resentment between them, but beneath all that, there’s also the bonds of sisterhood and love. As truths emerge that shed light on misconceptions about their shared pasts, they have to deal with their bitterness and pain in order to wage their fight for power and freedom.
I can’t say enough good things about The Once and Future Witches. It has to be read and experienced to really get what it’s all about. While it took me a few tries to get past the early chapters, I think that was mostly due to my distracted mind rather than the book itself. Once I shut out the world and really focused, I just couldn’t put it down.