So… this post isn’t going up on a Sunday. Oops. Blame the 100+ assignments I graded and the Benadryl I took.
This week’s read was the genre where my heart and soul lie: YA fantasy! “The Bone Spindle” by Leslie Vedder is a gender-bent, queer positive retelling of Sleeping Beauty that’s mixed with a little Noah Wyle “The Librarians” style magical archeology/anthroplogy.
In Vedder’s twist, 100 years have passed since the Kingdom of Witches, Andar, fell to the Spindle Witch, one of the Four Great Witches who was spited by the royal family. In order to try and prevent the complete collapse of the kingdom, the other three Great Witches placed Prince Briar Rose (and the entire court) under a sleeping spell until the Spindle Witch’s curse could be broken. Since Andar’s fall, witches have been hunted and persecuted (and as we learn, hidden by those who are sympathetic to them) and treasure hunters, witch hunters, and anthropologists/archeologists have rifled through witch strongholds, preserving and/or destroying the books, treasures, and magical artifacts found within.
The adventure starts when the two main characters, Lady Filore Nenroa (called Fi) and an ax-wielding hunstwoman named Shane, meet over an ancient map that shows the location of a witch’s sanctuary that hasn’t yet been discovered and destroyed by Witch Hunters. But when Witch Hunters overhear and then target the two young women, it forces them to flee through the wilderness. When they eventually reach the witch’s stronghold on the map, it proves to be more than meets the eye and Fi finds herself pricked by the same Bone Spindle that cursed Briar Rose, setting into motion her Fate to be the one to wake Briar Rose from his sleep. Although Fi is determined to take on the journey on her own, Shane (prompted by the Paper Witch, a character who helps Fi and Shane after their experience at the witch’s stronghold goes wrong) demands that she accompany Fi and remain her loyal partner in this new mission set upon the two of them. The rest of the novel is a twisting and turning adventure to reach Briar Rose and wake the sleeping prince.
This book is definitely a YA novel, but is definitely appropriate for a 7/8 grade YA reader.
- Like many fantasy novels, this book has a lengthy exposition. This may be a turn off for readers not accustomed to a longer build up to the main action of the story.
- IT’S A SERIES (okay, so this is a delight, too, but I wasn’t expecting to start a brand new series and now need to wait a significant period of time for a 2nd novel). I wasn’t expecting a cliff hanger until I realized how few pages were left in the novel for a potential wrap up.
- The book bounces between characters and time periods. While this isn’t a problem for more advanced readers, this may make the novel more difficult to follow and understand. I found the chapters labeled appropriately and was able to tell the difference between past/present flashbacks, but a more novice reader may not.
- It’s a series! I’m excited to read the next parts of this story (and I hope they’re published sooner rather than later).
- It has queer characters! While one of the main love interest stories is F/M, the other story (Shane’s story) is a F/F pairing and it’s not considered “weird”, or “different”, or a “problem” or questioned in any way in this world and it causes no “weirdness” between Shane and Fi being partners. It just *is*. It’s normal. It’s mundane. And that’s wonderful.
- Details, details, details! Like so many of the fantasy novels I love, this novel brings on the details in the setting descriptions, the character descriptions, the characters’ thoughts and feelings, etc. I’m a fan of deep detail in fantasy novels and this one did it! (It also helps that once the story breaks free of the exposition, this book MOVES and is action packed).