"A Spindle Splintered" review
Title: A Spindle Splintered
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Subgenre: Fairy tale retelling
2021 Bingo squares: Found family, First person, Published in 2021
Recommend: Yes, but be in the mood to cry
I dare you to read A Spindle Splintered with a dry eye for a single page (you won’t, it’s impossible). Zinnia Gray is a dying girl who’s spent her life obsessed with Sleeping Beauty because being a cursed girl seems better than being a dying girl. Alix Harrow uses a poetic, musical first-person present voice that leaves the reader heartbroken for both the protagonist and also every other character at every moment of this 128-page-long novella.
They’re supposed to fold my proteins into clever little origami shapes, which they’ve been doing, mostly, but one day they’re going to go haywire and start churning out garbage. My organs will fill up with mutant proteins, murderous fleets of malformed paper cranes, and I’ll drown in my own fucked-up biological destiny.
The story itself is about dying and cursed girls and women trying to look out for each other - even if they aren’t so great at doing it. And the events of the story aren’t that important to the story, not really. When a modern-day girl gets sucked through a portal and finds herself in a magical kingdom, in other novels she finds her cell phone doesn’t work, because that’s what “makes sense.” In A Spindle Splintered, Zinnia can still contact Charmaine, because this story is about girls helping each other, and so of course they aren’t isolated from each other.
Zinnia and Charmaine also have a wonderful best-friendship, whether they’re throwing surprise birthday parties for each other or arguing about whether portkeys exist - their friendship (and love) is raw and believable, even as it’s told primarily through anecdotes and text messages.
Dying girl rule #3 is no romance
I don’t think I can say anything else about this novella without getting into spoilers - you can read it in a single sitting, and I recommend taking the time to do so if you can. Bring a box of tissues and something - or someone - fluffy to hold while you read.