The Sleeper and The Spindle
by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell
Rating: 4 Stars
‘A thrillingly reimagined fairy tale from the truly magical combination of author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell – weaving together a sort-of Snow White and an almost Sleeping Beauty with a thread of dark magic, which will hold readers spellbound from start to finish.
On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents.
Lavishly produced, packed with glorious Chris Riddell illustrations enhanced with metallic ink, this is a spectacular and magical gift.’
A very enjoyable take on what happens once the fairytale is over. A young queen – a not quite Snow White – goes on an adventure to save her kingdom. A sleeping curse is spreading throughout a neighbouring realm and only a thin line of mountains exists to keep her people safe. The day before her planned wedding the Queen dons her armour and sets off on an adventure.
I love that the Queen is proactive, that she goes out to fight the problem. It’s great to see a fairytale character with some existing outside of the mechanism of the traditional plot. If there’s one thing that Gaiman never is, it’s conventional. The writing is as strange and lovely as ever and is definitely complemented by the images.
The illustrations in this slim volume are breath-taking and remind me why Riddell’s illustration in The Edge Chronicles had such a profound effect on me as a child. The colour scheme is incredibly effective; black and white with slight metallic hints of gold that seem to jump off the page. The pages of text are smoothly interspersed with integrated images and amazing double page spreads.
I know some people thought that this would be an LBQT fairytale (largely due to a beautifully illustrated panel of Ridell’s), but I don’t think it is really. Sexuality doesn’t really come into it. It’s more about learning to save yourself and making your choice about when you are ready for the adventure to end.
I suppose the only reason this isn’t quite 5 stars is that I had a niggling feeling about the twist, so it wasn’t too much of a shock and I wished the story was just a little longer.