FIC VED (Reviewing “The Bone Spindle”)

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.

Gray background covered in thorns and roses. In foreground, two young women, one in a white shirt with braided hair holding a large ax over her shoulder and the other, in a sleeveless blue shirt, has her short hair pulled back and a leather messenger style bag slung over her shoulder. Text in fron of them reads "The Bone Spindle" in gold lettering.
Cover Image of “The Bone Spindle”

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.

3 Defects

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

3 Delights

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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).

SC SER (Reviewing “Serendipity: Ten romantic tropes transformed”)

So this is the PERFECT time of the year (just before Valentine’s Day hits) to pick up a book of love stories and “Serendipity: Ten Romantic Tropes Transformed” edited by Marissa Meyer did NOT disappoint from the Young Adult side of the aisle. This book includes short stories from a star studded cast of Young Adult authors including:

  • Julie Murphy (author of “Dumplin'” and “Ramona Blue”)
  • Leah Johnson (author of “You Should See Me in a Crown”)
  • Abigail Hing Wen (author of “Loveboat, Taipei”)
  • Caleb Roehrig (author of “Last Seen Leaving” and “White Rabbit”)
  • Marissa Meyer (author of “The Lunar Chronicles” and “Renegades”)
  • Sarah Winifred Searle (author of “The Greatest Thing” and “Sincerely, Harriet”)
  • Elise Bryant (author of “Happily Ever Afters”)
  • Elizabeth Eulberg (author of “Better Off Friends” and “The Lonely Hearts Club”)
  • Anna-Marie McLemore (author of “When the Moon was Ours”)
  • Sandhya Menon (author of “When Dimple Met Rishi”)
Cover image is has a blue floral background with pops of red, peach, and purple flowers that form the shape of a heart behind the text "Serendipity: Ten Romantic Tropes Transformed, Edited by Marissa Meyer"
Cover image of “Serendipity”

The book’s stories were beautifully diverse not just in race, culture, and socioeconomic status of their characters, but also had stories that broke away from the heteronormative, cis stories that you’d expect in a love anthology. The book also featured a short story in graphic novel format, which was a lovely surprise in what I thought was going to be an all-text anthology! Honestly, my “defects” on this book are going to be really tiny, nitpicky kinds of things because this was a beautifully pieced together work. Meyer really chose the best of the best for this anthology and it shows in just how lovely it was to read!

3 Defects

  1. So… IDK if they REALLY “transformed” the romantic tropes, so much as they messed with the possible outcomes of the trope, or they messed with the gender or sexuality of the characters to mess with the trope. Some stories played with it more than others and some followed the predictability of the trope entirely.
  2. This definitely felt like it fell on the younger side of YA. While this isn’t REALLY a defect, it might definitely turn off some readers, who, seeing the list of authors, might be expecting something slightly different (or something more “mature” in content). This is ALSO one of my delights… so… *shrug*
  3. This one is likely to become dated quickly, based on some of the social media/meme/etc. references, but it’s a price that must be paid to be relevant NOW.

3 Delights

  1. I love me YA romance that’s appropriate for slightly younger YA fans! This definitely would be appropriate for 7th/8th graders, as well as older readers. The language is pretty tame throughout the book (a couple of minor swear words here and there, but barely enough to mention), there is no “hard and heavy” physical romance, and even the few instances of the word “crotch” or a character being partially nude (some after hours swimming in a pool in their underwear), it’s honestly really tame. The biggest “controversy” is going to come from the LGBTQA+ relationships.
  2. YAY! Not just gender and hetero normative relationships! While I would have loved a deeper dip into more variations on sexuality (cuz teens have a wider variety than this text), for a short story anthology, I’m pretty happy.
  3. Short and sweet. Each of the stories is an appropriate length and keeps things just long enough to keep you interested, but just short enough you get the feel good fuzzies of the love story in a 10-15 minute window of reading. This was my school-pick-up-line read this last week and I could finish 1-2 stories during each 20-25 minute wait.

Secret add on delight? I love that there’s a Wisconsin girl in the mix of authors! Elizabeth Eulberg might be living in New York now, but she’s a self described “Proud Cheesehead” from Portage, WI who’s mom was her high school librarian… and that makes me so happy.