It was the closest kingdom to the queen’s, as the crow flies, but not even the crows flew it.
Fairy tales have an ethereal and ageless quality that has allowed them to stand the test of time. Adaptations, rewrites and different formats have kept them fresh for every generation, cementing them in the very DNA of childhood itself. This particular fairy tale adaptation/mash-up by dream-team Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell takes the timelessness of fairy tale and adds a modern feminist twist which results in a truly superb read.
The intricacies and intelligence of The Sleeper and the Spindle is amazing, and the beautiful cover highlights perfectly the treat in store within the pages. The monochrome image, ethereal damsel and flowers and thorns allude to the classical fairy tale and yet the black roses, dust jacket ‘veil’ and side step of naming the damsel as sleeping or beauty suggests that there is more to this tale than a predictable storyline of ages past!
Gaiman has taken the tradition of the ‘happily ever after’ and extended Snow White’s story beyond it for we meet her first as a queen waiting for her wedding day. Instead of walking down the aisle (as tradition dictates) she is alerted to a mysterious sleep plague that is coming over the mountain to threaten her kingdom and so, instead, a quest begins! Gaiman’s writing and wit are as sharp as ever and fans will not be disappointed by this his latest offering. The Sleeper and the Spindle subverts fairy tale expectation, revises the role of the hero and adds a wonderfully eloquent feminist twist to one of the more lacklustre stories within the fairy tale canon.
This is a picture book so it would be completely remiss of me not to mention the stunningly beautiful illustrations by Chris Riddell – I could stare at each page for hours and still not catch every detail! He brings the beauty of Gaiman’s words to life and with every pen stroke adds depth, an extra level of Gothicism and intertextual references to the story – the monochrome images with flecks of gold leaf are just sumptuous! There is one illustrated spread in particular that has provided this book with added attention (Google it for spoilers!) but for me every page is worthy of such hype – it is simply beautiful.
If you haven’t already guessed, I absolutely adore this book! It is witty, clever and striking, marrying the text and image perfectly. The Sleeper and the Spindle will be treasured in my book collection as it is the kind of tale I want to pass down to my future children – and if that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is!