Fantasy Short Stories

A Spindle Splintered – Alix E. Harrow

24 October 2021
A Spindle Splintered Book Cover A Spindle Splintered
Fractured Fables
Alix E. Harrow
5 October 2021

"A vivid, subversive and feminist reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, where implacable destiny is no match for courage, sisterhood, stubbornness and a good working knowledge of fairy tales." —Katherine Arden 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.


To say fairy tales are only full of fun, magic, and songs would be a false assumption. From the Grimm Brothers, regional folklore, and Disney, there is a sinister side in most tales; whether it be narcissism or murder, child abuse or kidnapping, evil spells and witches, or some dreadful songs, there is a darker side lurking. I have grown up enjoying fairy tales and being Peter, like the boy who never grew up, I’m aptly named to delve into these stories without hesitation. Although I love the more fractured modern versions, A Spindle Splintered playing on the Sleeping Beauty tale called out to me Once Upon a Dream.

Zinnia (Zin) Gray is a young woman fated to be living her last year because of a rare terminal illness, and no one has ever lived past twenty-one. Zin’s close friend, Charm, has organised a Sleeping Beauty themed twenty-first birthday party complete with a tower, decorations and spinning wheel. Playing out the theme, Zin touches the tip of the spindle, and when she draws blood, she is transported to another universe where she meets Primrose – the perfect image of a fairy tale princess.

I appreciate that Alix Harrow carries multiple messages in her stories, and fantasy is always a perfect genre to use as the vehicle. She delivers a strong take on the power of women to take charge and not accept the stereotypical behaviour of a damsel in distress or asleep in this case. Both Zin and Primrose challenge the typical inevitability and seek answers to the curses that have befallen them. This context also expands to a multi-verse that introduces many instances of the Sleeping Beauty characters. Zin, Primose and Charm embark on an adventure to find answers and not go quietly to a predestined fate. Their journey of busting open the fairy tale is enthralling, captivating with clever surprises, and embraced with calculating humour.

I experienced this story as an audiobook wonderfully narrated by Amy Landon. She effortlessly switches between accents that underpin the characters and the scenes in the story. I would recommend this book, and it’s the start of a “Fractured Fables” series which will appeal to those fascinated with modern retelling and repositioning of renowned fairy tales. I want to thank Macmillan Audio and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in return for an honest review.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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