Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.
And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.
As the faerie queen and her army of Vultures prepare to march, Isabelle must race to find a prince who can awaken her sister with the kiss of true love and seal their two kingdoms in an alliance against the queen.
While Isabelle crosses land and sea, the kingdom falls to ruin under layers of snow and whispers of revolt. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a strange and enchanted realm, where a mysterious hunter may hold the secret to her escape . . . or the reason for her to stay.
Among fairytales, Sleeping Beauty is quite simple in the fact that the main plot is just a sleeping curse and a dashing prince who wakes her with a kiss of True Love. But Spindle Fire adds layers of complexity to this old fairytale, developing the story of the faeries, as well as the princess’ gifts. Think like what Snow White and the Huntsman was for the story of Snow White. While the original did not involve a sister, Spindle Fire adds an older illegitimate sister, who crosses kingdoms to save her sister from the sleeping curse, developing a story about sisterhood than just a tale of True Love’s Kiss.
Firstly, in the world of Spindle Fire, faeries are a race apart from humans with magical powers, but they also live like the nobility. They are sort of grey characters who live to take specific tithes – usually what they want the most. This creation of the faeries and humans’ relation with respect to rulers and powers plays a major part in the motives of Malfleur (the Maleficent of this tale). The tithing that humans give to the faeries in exchange for gifts is the basis of the woe in our fairytale. Aurora’s parents, in an effort for vanity or plain stupidness, tithe away the two sister’s senses – Aurora’s voice and touch, and Isabelle’s sight. So, we have two physically disabled heroines, who are sort of like emotional supports to each other, and a close bond between them despite the differences in their status and their paths. The story, though mostly told from Aurora’s and Isabelle’s POV, occasionally folds back into the past to tell pieces of the puzzle from the narratives of other characters like Bellecoeur (Mal’s twin sister), Malfleur and other faeries of import. The story of Aurora and Isabelle sort of reflects the one of Bellecoeur and Malfleur, in that something is between them, but in the former, Isabelle is ready to sacrifice it for her sister, while in the latter the thing that comes between them rends the world apart.
Additionally, the romance in this book is slow-building, with Isabelle’s quest to find the prince for Aurora makes her fall in love with said prince (I loved that whole arc), while Aurora in the other world is trying to fight back to hers with the help of a hunter who is desperate for a way out. The focus isn’t on the romance and it acts more like a nice addition to the plot, which I liked. Hillyer’s beautiful prose weaves it all together – the story of the faeries, the story of the sisters, and the story of these two sets of lovers, – into an enchanting story that I honestly couldn’t stop reading. This is a wonderful start to a duology, and I can’t wait to get the other part of the story.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Harper Teen, via Edelweiss.