It's Zinnia Gray's twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it's the last birthday she'll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no-one has lived past twenty-one. Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia's last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.
This is a slender novella but it spins a strong and captivating tale. It's funny, sharp, queer, and deeply loves its source material ... These stories don't shy away from ugliness. They don't diminish hardship. Choices people make matter deeply, even when that person seems trapped inside a narrative. For a book about magic curses and world-hopping, there's a lot of hard science talk; this is one of A Spindle Splintered's strengths, as enchantment echoes modern science and helps ground Zinnia's adventure in our reality ... Harrow's writing is always lyrical, but Zinnia's matter-of-fact vinegar, her insightfulness, her funniness and her sense of herself as someone a little separate from the world — since she's always had one foot out the door — makes for a memorable protagonist and a poignant story. Her voice is so easy to want more of; her genre savvy is good fun and never crosses the line into irritating, just as the tropes never become twee or rote. I want more Zinnia. More Charm, Zinnia's stubborn and badass lesbian friend. More Primrose, who sometimes surprises Zinnia and the reader ... unapologetically self-aware, but it is also earnestly romantic. It's an easy read, over too soon ... This novella pushes against the hopelessness of inevitability; it dares us to believe in sympathetic magic; it tells us we're connected through story. It might dent your heart a little, but it's good fun.
... an engaging (if at times overly zippy) adventure that sets up exactly what every fairy tale needs: A heroine who is out of fucks to give ... The truths that they uncover are a keenly sharp commentary that feels both timeless and very much rooted in current conversations about childbearing people’s bodily autonomy ... The novella’s length does dictate some reliance on overly recognizable narrative shorthand, however. For all that Zinnia watches Primrose react to her world opening up, the princess still comes across as the physical embodiment of archetype subversion rather than her own complete person. Similarly, at times Zinnia seems to be purely defined by her snarky nihilism, which acts as the figurative wall of thorns blocking her own access to greater self-awareness. Then, of course, there’s the amyloidosis, which seems to be such an intrinsic part of her that it translates across retellings ... certainly reveals clever glimpses, but Harrow seems to promise even deeper self-reflection in the forthcoming sequel A Mirror Mended, and hopefully increasingly more inspired adventures in the fairy tale multiverse.