Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Spindle, by E.K. Johnston

Hey, all. I've been taking a bit of a blog hiatus, but I had a good excuse: I was in Nepal for most of October. Very cool place. When I'm finished sorting through the 1700-odd photos I took, I might post a few of them!

I probably won't be posting much in November, either, since I've decided to participate in NaNoWriMo. It always seemed like a rather ridiculous thing to do (as in: there's no way I could ever do that!), but I'm at the stage in my WIP where a clearly defined writing goal will be a good thing. Right? This is going to work for me. I have confidence. Ahem.

I didn't get as much reading done in Nepal as I thought I would (and I was reading more non-fiction than fiction), but I did finish E.K. Johnston's companion novel to A Thousand Nights, and it was every bit as good. My only complaint was that it ended too soon!

Spindle is set generations after the events of A Thousand Nights, and you don't have to have read the first book before you read Spindle (Spindle does spoil A Thousand Nights, though). Spindle is another transformative reinterpretation of a fairy tale, this time (as you might guess) Sleeping Beauty.

I love me a good fairy-tale retelling.

Spindle's narrator and protagonist is Yashaa, the son of one of the spinners who are out of a job (and exiled from the kingdom) after a demon curses the Little Rose. I love, love, love, that Johnston explores the realistic, economic implications of ending an entire industry. "And then they burnt all the spindles in the land." That's going to have consequences, people!

The curse itself is fascinating and complex (and an important part of the plot, so I can't tell you about it without spoilers). Yashaa and his three friends (also impacted by the above economic consequences) go on a quest to end the curse which is destroying not just their lives but the entire kingdom. I love, love, love that this is a buddy story: Yashaa, Arwa, Tariq and Saoud are all flawed, lovable characters in their own right, and their bond of friendship and loyalty is a treat to watch. There's a sweet little romance, but it's not the focus.

The demon is also an interesting character; Johnston almost gets us to sympathize with her. She's got a long-term, carefully planned out scheme to regain the power stolen from her people, and she just has to be patient a little longer before it all pays off, if those stupid meddling kids don't mess everything up! I really enjoyed the scenes from her point of view.

The magic creatures are lovely and magical, and I wanted more of them. I also wanted more of the ending: Johnston could have written another hundred pages and I would have gladly read them. (A warning of sorts: Johnston's endings always take a left turn from where you think they're going. It's as though you think you're reading a certain kind of story that's going to have a certain kind of ending, but really she was writing a different story all along, and the ending you were expecting is more of an afterthought. Those of you who've read it, what did you think of the ending?)

Spindle was delicious and multi-layered and resonant with magic. Backlava, I think, oozing honey and crunchy nuttiness. I sure love E.K. Johnston's writing!