Break up your own fairy tale in “A Spindle Splintered” – Book Review
Zinnia suffers from a rare terminal illness and is running out of time. On the occasion of what will likely be her last birthday, her best friend goes all out, party-themed around Zinnia’s obsession with Sleeping Beauty’s fairy tale. There is even a spinning wheel! Then Zinnia pricks her finger on the spindle and finds herself in an alternate universe, facing a young princess named Primrose who has been cursed by an evil fairy, and you have An exploded brooch.
A exploded rocket is a queer, feminist tale of the classic Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. As written by Alix E. Harrow, the author of one of my favorite fantasy novels, The ten thousand gates of January, I was expecting something a bit like this when I read this book, and it was my mistake. Honestly, the two couldn’t be more different, but that doesn’t matter. The prose isn’t as poetic (it’s always extremely well written), but Harrow never fails to create an entertaining story.
While I love Sleeping Beauty, the Disney movie, I recognize that Aurora is only a heroine in the broadest sense, having very little agency and virtually no line in a movie that bears her name. All of these are brought up very early on by Zinnia, who is obsessed with the fairy tale because it reflects her own existence. What Harrow does with this book is give the sleeping princess a choice. When Zinnia bumps into Primrose, she interrupts the curse – preventing her from pricking her finger and thus falling into enchanted sleep. The two then decide to flee the castle and hunt down the evil fairy, hoping to completely remove the curse (possibly both).
It doesn’t end as they hoped, but the challenge isn’t in the result, it’s in the act itself. In attempting to take control of their own destiny, Primrose and Zinnia have unleashed a chain of events that have lasting consequences, not only for themselves, but for other sleeping beauties in other universes. Harrow definitely overturns a well-known fable with this book.
There is something heartwarming about reading stories about the family found. Zinnia and Primrose bond not only on their quest, but also on the common and similar circumstances they find themselves in. The relationships that develop in these situations are often among the best written of any media, and the absolute solidarity that these two show is honestly what makes this book so fascinating. It’s less a book about fairy tales than a story about the power of brotherhood.
As Zinnia has a terminal illness, much of the conflict in this book is with herself – with her body, with her expectations, with her attitude toward her own demise. Not being a chronic illness, I cannot say for sure how accurate the depiction is. Some may worry that the fairytale nature of the story follows the ‘magic cure’ trope, and while I don’t want to spoil too much in my review, I will say that I think Harrow does a good job of navigating. this.
There is a bit of romance – not with Zinnia but between two non-POV characters – but actually a big part of this book is about taking a character out of a romance brought on by forced heteronormativity. As in, now that Primrose has “escaped” her “curse,” she’s free to marry the handsome prince, whom she of course doesn’t want to marry at all. Princes are not his type, after all.
A exploded rocket is a short read that can easily be completed in an afternoon, if you’re anything like me. The finale definitely leaves things open, and it’s the first in a series, but I’m not sure whether or not subsequent books will have the same characters or just continue the “fractured fables” theme.
A exploded rocket by Alix E. Harrow is published by Tor.com and is currently available wherever the books are sold.
* I received a prior copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine. *
Author: Jamie sugah
Jamie holds a BA in English with a focus on Creative Writing from Ohio State University. She has self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available on Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York with her demon ninja vampire cat. It covers television, books, movies, cartoons, and conventions in the New York area.
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