Briar Rose considers herself just a normal spinner girl, like so many others working in the cotton mills in her small Vermont town. Her biggest concern is earning enough to care for her orphaned younger siblings and keep the family together.
But with a name like Briar Rose — and with a friend called Henry Prince! — she shouldn’t be surprised when she finds herself surrounded by a real-life fairy tale. Unfortunately, Briar quickly discovers that living in a fairy tale is, well, no fairy tale.
“Spindle” by Shonna Slayton portrays what might happen if the fairy’s curse from “Sleeping Beauty,” rather than being destroyed, somehow survived for hundreds of years, attached to a magical spindle that finds its way to a young Irish-American girl in the early 20th century. When Briar accepts the spindle as a gift from a peddler, in order to help fix a broken frame in the mill, she unwittingly sets the curse in motion again. In Slayton’s imaginative tale, Briar, her family, and her friends must work together to defeat a powerful and relentless evil that threatens not just Briar, but their whole community.
Just as Briar is surprised to find herself the target of the ancient curse, she’s equally surprised — and moved — to find that she isn’t as alone as she thought, that others around her were protecting her long before she knew anything was wrong. And that some of the seemingly ordinary people around her are anything but ordinary.
Slayton’s story, while not strictly a fairy tale retelling, should be appreciated and enjoyed by young fans of that genre. Her ideas are interesting and creative. Though the middle section is a little slow-paced and repetitive, things pick up considerably in the final third of the story, when the magic kicks into high gear!
Throughout the story, Briar is a sympathetic heroine, hardworking and unselfish. She is stirred by her friend Ethel’s ideas about female suffrage and workers’ rights, and now and then tempted by her friend Mim’s urgings to try to find a rich husband. But she strives to balance her yearning for independence with her determination to put her siblings first.
Slayton is a Christian writer, and while her story is not overtly religious, there are occasional positive references to faith and church, along with many characters with high ideals and standards. There’s nothing scary apart from fairy tale depictions of evil fairies and mysterious magical illnesses, and no sexual content, only a few kisses. One character has to flee a drunken husband, but there are no actual depictions of his harsh treatment.
A heartwarming story about the power of love, kindness, and wisdom over evil, “Spindle” should make a welcome addition to the reading lists of young fairy tale fans.
Image copyright Entangled Teen. Review copy obtained from the author.
Gina Dalfonzo is editor of BreakPoint.org and Dickensblog.