(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
She’s not a princess . . . but then, he’s no prince.
Polyhymnia is deep in enchanted sleep. High in a tower, behind an impenetrable barrier of magical thorns, she sleeps, dreams, and falls ever deeper into her curse.
Woken by a kiss, Poly finds herself in an alien world where three hundred years have passed and everyone she has ever known is dead. Luck, the enchanter who woke her, seems to think she is the princess. Understandable, since he found her asleep on the princess’ bed, in the royal suite, and dressed in the princess’ clothes.
Who cursed Poly? Why is someone trying to kill her and Luck? Why can’t she stop falling asleep?
And why does her hair keep growing?
Sometimes breaking the curse is just the beginning of the journey.
[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
Spindle by W. R. Gingell is almost a perfect retelling of Sleeping Beauty—almost. Despite the amazing world-building, the characters and the plot Spindle fails in one simple way: exposition. Or rather, lack thereof.
Now, I’m not the sort of person that loves an info-dump at the beginning of the book. I prefer a slow revealing of the main character’s backstory and the story of the world the author has created. But in Spindle there is an infuriatingly small trickle of information. Poly wakes up to find a rude, somewhat forgetful wizard broke her spell and thinks she’s the princess. She has magic hair that won’t stop growing. She has a spindle in her pocket but can’t seem to remember that it’s there. Poly accidentally takes them not to Luck’s (the wizard’s) village during a journey spell but to an entirely fictional world because she was holding a book. And through it all, Luck keeps insisting she has magic while Poly blithely denies it, even though she constantly demonstrates magic. It’s really, truly infuriating. As I said, I don’t need a bunch of information in the beginning but Gingell leaves the readers even more confused than Poly for a minimum of 35% of the book. Even after the 35% hurdle, things aren’t really explained adequately until the 50-60% mark, which is just a little bit ridiculous. I can understand conveying the confusion of the main character but it just shouldn’t be this frustrating or last this long. It was only out of sheer stubbornness that I kept reading past the first half of the book.
However, when backstory was finally revealed to us, the readers, it is fascinating. Gingell has created an amazing world where magic is studied as a form of science but still tries to outfox even the most clever efforts to unravel its mysteries. There are three types of ‘magic’ and all of them are very, very different. The world Poly wakes up to is 300 years after her time and the world has definitely moved on. The kingdom is now a republic, the fashions have significantly changed, there are two countries instead of three because of the war that started when the castle was put to sleep, etc. She has to navigate this crazy new world with an unhelpful Luck, who seems oblivious to everything but his own studies and Onepiece, a dog who turns out to be a boy. It’s a vibrant, imaginative world but it’s just so incredibly frustrating that instead of revealing a little bit in the beginning, we get huge amounts of information dumped on us after the 50% mark.
Poly herself is a pretty cool character. She was just one of the princess’ ladies in waiting and was the target of most of the princess’ wrath. But she’s stubborn and becomes more and more self-assured. After sleeping for 300 years she’s desperate to get to the bottom of the curse and when Luck doesn’t seem to be all that interested in helping her, she tries to find out on her own despite the remnants of the curse. Once she’s in Luck’s village she quickly adapts to modern life and tries to help the villagers deal with their absent-minded wizard who is supposed to take care of their little magical troubles (like the fact that the wild magic of the Forest keeps moving the fields). Luck is a very frustrating character in the beginning but you do see glimpses of how smart and sweet he really is. Poly and Luck make a very interesting duo.
Despite some weird time skips that weren’t really indicated in my Kindle copy (although that’s probably just a NetGalley formatting issue), the plot was amazing. It’s not exactly fast-paced but there’s a lot of self-discovery and character development once you get past the information-starved beginning. Gingell has created just an amazing world and despite my frustration with the beginning, I would absolutely love to read more about Poly and Luck or even just about other characters in this world. W. R. Gingell has a great thing going here but the beginning is a huge deterrant to prospective readers. It’s hard to convey but despite the rough beginning I really, really loved this book and if my review has intrigued you at all, I would encourage you to give Spindle a try. It’s far better than many fairytale retellings I’ve come across.
I give this book 3/5 stars.