Neil Gaiman – The Sleeper and the Spindle
68. The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman (2015)
Read By: a full cast, including Julian Rhind-Tutt, Lara Pulver, Niamh Walsh, Adjoa Andoh, Peter Forbes, John Sessions, Michael Maloney, Sean Baker, and Jane Collingwood
Length: 1h 06 min (68 pages)
Genre: Fantasy, Short Story
Started/Finished: 20 October 2015
Where did it come from? From Harper Children’s Audio for review.
Why do I have it? Neil Gaiman AND a fairy tale retelling.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 29 September 2015.
In this one, it’s a
queen who sets out to save the
Summary: Three dwarves, on their way to the queen’s wedding, discover that there’s a plague spreading throughout the land – a plague of sleeping, rumored to be spreading from an enchanted castle in a neighboring kingdom. The Queen, realizing the danger to her own people, and being a survivor of an enchanted sleep herself, puts the wedding plans on hold and heads out with the dwarves towards the enchanted castle, and the sleeper waiting within. But what they find is not quite what they had expected…
Review: Oh, we know I’m a sucker for fairy tale retellings, and so if you toss two of them in together, and provide a good twist at the end, and couch it in this strong of a “princesses saving themselves!” vibe, of course I’m going to love it. (Seriously, the Queen’s fiancé, the Prince, is in this so briefly and doesn’t get any lines of his own and the Queen “chucked him beneath his pretty chin and kissed him until he smiled” and I grinned so broadly my face hurt.) The story is exactly the right length; long enough to develop some interesting threads but short enough that it moves along at a good clip (although maybe it was a smidgen too short; I was never really clear on why the castle had been cursed for 70 years but the sleeping sickness had only now started to spread). The writing style is… very Gaiman-ish, is the best way I can describe it. It’s also fairly dark – not inappropriate for children dark, although there is a definite whiff of zombie-like horror when the sleeping townspeople start coming after the Queen and the dwarves. But it’s dark in the way that most fairy tales are dark – and in ways that will make you re-evaluate your favorite fairy tales, to see if everything really is what it seems to be.
I’ve now encountered this story in three forms – first in the audio version, then in print as part of the collection Trigger Warning, and then as a standalone storybook illustrated by Chris Riddell that I got from the library. The audio is a full-cast audio, with background production noises (glasses clinking in the taproom of an inn, zombie sleepwalkers shuffling up a flight of stairs, etc.) The storybook is filled with gorgeous black and white illustration with touches of metallic gold picked out here and there. They both add something to the bare-bones text version of the story. Full-cast audiobooks are a tricky sell for me, although I’ve certainly liked them in the past, but in this case, while the full-cast-ness of it was fine, I found the production noises mostly distracting rather than atmospheric (as was also the case in in Swordspoint). The illustrated version is absolutely lovely, the drawings beautiful and slightly dark but often with a bit of a sense of humor, perfectly in keeping with the tone of the story. 3.5 out of 5 stars for the audio, 4 out of 5 for the storybook.
Recommendation: Good for fairy tale fans of (almost) all ages – probably not for the wee littles, but anyone who can handle the length should be fine with the content of the story.
First Line: It was the closest kingdom to the queen’s, as the crow flies, but not even the crows flew it.
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