Alix E Harrow can definitely be hit or miss for me. This, fortunately, was such a hit that I actually exclaimed “yes!” when I realized it was the first of a series.
Zinnia Gray is no traditional princess. But she has been cursed, more or less, with a genetic disease known as Generalized Roseville Malady, after an unscrupulous corporation neglected to test the allegedly safe chemicals they put into the atmosphere of Roseville on anyone except healthy adult males. As a result, she and several others were born with an illness that no one has survived past their twenty-first year. Despite having lived the best life possible — including finishing high school early and earning a degree in folklore — Zinnia finds herself running out the clock as her milestone birthday approaches.
When her best friend Charmaine throws her a birthday extravaganza at the tallest tower in their Ohio town, Zinnia is grateful for the distraction. She even jokingly puts her finger to the spindle of the spinning wheel Charm has somehow acquired, the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty having been her favorite since she was a child moving in and out of hospital beds. Even so, it comes as a total shock when she is suddenly whisked away through time, space and reality, landing smack in the middle of an actual fairy tale kingdom with a princess who is definitely in need of saving.
Princess Primrose has spent her life fighting against the curse she was placed under as a baby. On her twenty-first birthday, as the fairy tale goes, she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and sleep for a hundred years. Zinnia’s sudden intercession saves her from that. Primrose knows she ought to be grateful, but her betrothed is a pain and the urge to find the spindle regardless unrelenting. Zinnia comes up with the harebrained plan to do what the princely fiance could not, and find and confront the evil fairy who consigned Primrose to this fate. Only nothing goes or turns out to be exactly as Zinnia or Primrose expects.
I loved the way this novella dissected and reinterpreted the Sleeping Beauty myth, coming up with a cool multiverse twist to explore not only the themes and origins of the classic story but to ally princesses so that they can save each other and themselves. It’s a wonderful expression of solidarity and empowerment that I was 100% here for. Unlike Doug, I am absolutely part of this novella’s target demographic and I loved it. Ms Harrow’s shorter works continue to live up to all my expectations: this is definitely my front runner for the Best Novella Category in the 2022 Hugos right now, tho I still have the Seanan McGuire and the Becky Chambers to enjoy before I make a final call.
Oh, and I very much enjoyed the Rackham illustrations throughout! Shameless self-promotion: if you like that kind of art and want to make your own fairy tales, do check out Equinox, my Tarot-based fairy tale RPG, illustrated in lavish full color. Physical copies available for a limited time!
A Spindle Splintered (Fractured Fables #1) by Alix E. Harrow was published October 5 2021 by tordotcom and is available from all good booksellers, including