Tag Archives: fairy tale retellings

Book Review: Spindle by W.R. Gingell

Spindle is a charming little self-published title by Tasmanian author W.R. Gingell. I received a copy of it through NetGalley, where I was drawn in by the book description and a surprisingly nice-looking (for self-publishing) cover image. It turns out that Spindle is a fast, fun read, well worth $2.99 for the Kindle version.

It’s a Sleeping Beauty story that begins with our heroine, Poly (short for Polyhymnia), being kissed awake by an enchanter named Luck, who managed to find a loophole in the curse. The rest of the book details their adventures as they work together to find a way to break the curse once and for all and defeat the evil wizard who created it.

Spindle definitely has some problems, most of which I think would have been solved by being put through a professional editorial process. There are a lot of adverbs as dialogue tags, which I find to be generally either distracting or redundant. There are a handful (but literally only a handful) of typos that might have been caught with just another once-over by someone detail-oriented. There is a lot of reusing of phrases and words that I can tell the author really likes, and I have some issues with a lot of word choices. The language often verges on pretentious and the book overall ends up being almost (but not quite) too preciously quirky.

All that said, I enjoyed Spindle a great deal, mostly because Gingell has come up with a great cast of characters, whose interactions with each other are interesting and compelling. I appreciated that Poly’s ending up with Luck wasn’t entirely a foregone conclusion from the first page, and I liked that she got to explore a couple of other romantic attractions with men who respected her. Poly’s adoption of Onepiece and her growth in her role as a parent to him is nice and gives Poly something to do and focus on besides dealing with her curse and sorting out her feelings about Luck. There are a good number of other female characters that Poly befriends, and I’m always happy to read about women having relationships that aren’t toxic. I particularly liked Poly’s friendship with Margaret.

Of course, probably the most important relationship Poly has is with Luck, the enchanter who woke her up. I’m not sure how I feel about this one, to be honest, because Luck is often a terribly annoying character. I didn’t care at all for the repeated descriptions of Luck as vague. It made him seem both boring–with just the one character trait–and it created a consistently comical image in my head of a dude just staring off into space all the time. It’s a poor word choice, in my opinion, and not one to inspire romantic feelings. As far as what we’re shown about Luck (as opposed to told), he’s often self-centered, distractable, uncommunicative, needlessly obscure, and awfully inconsiderate of nearly everyone around him. It seems like the relationship between Poly and Luck is supposed to be evolving over time, but mostly I felt like Poly just learned better coping mechanisms and became more self-sufficient. This is nice, but I found myself wondering why they needed to end up together at all.

In the end, the mad-cap high energy of Spindle manages to be more fun than annoying, and I’d recommend it as a piece of light reading that is a little reminiscent of Howl’s Moving Castle (the Studio Ghibli movie, not the book). I’m not dying to read any of W.R. Gingell’s older work, but I might keep an eye out for things she publishes in the future, especially if she gets picked up by a proper publisher who could help iron out some of the wrinkles in Gingell’s style.

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Maas_A Court of Thorns and RosesI’ve really enjoyed Sarah Maas’s Throne of Glass series so far, but I know that series is a planned six books so I wasn’t expecting anything else new by her anytime soon. I’ve also been really cutting back on the amount of attention I pay to YA stuff this year in order to focus on some more literary genre work, so A Court of Thorns and Roses managed to slip under my radar until just a few weeks before it was published. Well, I sure am glad I didn’t miss it entirely, because it’s really excellent.

I am a huge fan of reimagined fairy tales and “Beauty and the Beast” is one of my favorites to see retold because it’s a great romantic story with some pretty high stakes that make for wonderful drama. Combining “Beauty and the Beast” with “Tam Lin” only raises the stakes higher, and it creates an opportunity for there to be a truly heroic heroine. It’s an awesome concept, and Sarah Maas does not disappoint.

I’ve really gone off of first person narratives recently, but Feyre is a delight. She’s not the normal bookish Beauty (as popularized by Disney) that seems to have made an appearance in every “Beauty and the Beast” retelling of the last twenty years. Maas’s rejection of this pretty much ubiquitous trope may strike some readers as a little too on the nose, but I found it refreshing. Feyre is tough, resourceful, and self-reliant, but Maas gives her realistic flaws and isn’t afraid to let her heroine make mistakes.

Feyre’s love interest, Tamlin, is much more two-dimensional, a little too perfect, but I think it works for this book. I found myself rolling my eyes occasionally as he and Feyre fell in love, but what their romance lacked in emotional depth it made up for in sexiness. I would classify this book more as new adult than YA, as it does have some actual sex, with orgasms and everything. There are only a couple–sex scenes that is (there are more than a couple of orgasms–go, Feyre!)–but I thought they were nicely done and well-integrated with the rest of the story.

The supporting characters mostly worked as well, although I do have some criticisms. I loved Feyre’s sisters, especially Nesta, and I loved the evolution of Feyre’s relationship with them. Tamlin’s friend Lucien was actually more interesting to me than Tamlin himself. I liked Alis until Maas used her to deliver an enormous chunk of exposition (exposition that is contrary to literally everything that we’ve learned in the book so far) to set up the last act. Rhysand is fascinating, although I am a little concerned that Maas might be telegraphing too much of the plot of the next book in the series through him. Amarantha was definitely villainous; I loved the sequence of tasks Feyre had to face and I enjoyed the final showdown. However, I’m still not entirely sure that I understand Amarantha’s motivation.

All in all, though, I thought A Court of Thorns and Roses was a smart, funny, sexy read. It can easily be read as a stand-alone piece, which is good since I think Maas ended Feyre and Tamlin’s story in a good place. I’m definitely looking forward to further books in the series, but I kind of hope that they will focus on other characters. Nesta in particular could easily carry her own book, and I would love to read that story.