The Sleeper and the Spindle was a wonderful surprise and I’m so happy that I picked this book up. It is an illustrated novella written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell. The story is a fairy tale reimagining of both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, taking place after Snow was saved and awaiting her wedding day to the prince. In this version of Snow White, she finds herself feeling trapped by the prospects of marriage and makes a decision for herself to become the hero of someone else’s story.
“’A week from today, I shall be married.’ It seemed both unlikely and extremely final. She wondered how she would feel to be a married woman. It would be the end of her life, she decided, if life was a time of choices. In a week from now, she would have no choices.”
I really enjoyed this feminist twist on Snow’s character, a clear rebellion against traditional princess tropes. The story is told with a simple yet lyrical tone that reminded me of the styles in which many classical fairy tales are written. The story is intentionally written in this way as a direct subversion of classical views of fairy tale princesses and happily ever after endings.
Besides the story, the artwork by Riddell is marvelously dark and detailed, they added so much to the book and were one of my favorite parts about it. The illustrations are definitely a necessary element of the presentation that makes this book memorable. The story is still good without them, but it would not have had the same impact, the art really added to the reading experience.
As a side note, this story is romance free and is not a lesbian fairy tale retelling, despite what the beautiful panel shown above might lead folks to believe. I don’t want to spoil the plot in any way, but I also wanted to make readers aware of this fact before going in and finding themselves disappointed. I’ve seen a few reviewers slam this novella because they expected a lesbian romance and were mad when there was no romance to be found.
The lack of romance didn’t bother me in the least, in fact it was something I enjoyed about the story. For a book that clearly highlights the fear of being shackled by love and marriage, another romance would have been an odd thing to include in the story. Overall I love this novella, it was a refreshing retelling that I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend for folks that enjoy the classics. It’s a quick read and the gorgeous illustrations are worth a glance on their own.
Title: The Sleeper and the Spindle
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Chris Riddell
Publication Date: May 3, 2014
It was the closest kingdom to the Queen’s as the crow flies, but not even the crows flew it.
You may think you know this story. There’s a young queen, about to be married. There are some good, brave, hardy dwarfs; a castle, shrouded in thorns, and a princess, cursed by a witch, so rumor has it, to sleep forever.
But no one is waiting for a noble prince to appear on his trusty steed here. This fairy tale is spun with a thread of dark magic, which twists and turns and glints and shines. A queen might just prove herself a hero, if a princess needs rescuing.