Monday, 6 April 2015

The Sleeper and The Spindle Review (Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell)


The Sleeper and the Spindle is an illustrated short story, mashing up Snow White and Sleeping Beauty with a feminist twist - the Prince Charming character is a woman and, gasp, she kisses another woman to awaken her! Also, most of the book is characters walking across a fantasy landscape so if you’re a Tolkien fan, you’re gonna love this! 

Are we still not over post-modern takes on fairy tales? Do we really need another “darker” version of a well-known, heavily Disneyfied story? Apparently Neil Gaiman fans aren’t so the author reworks the stories to be female empowering because he’s a savvy businessman who knows a major chunk of his audience is made up of women. 

That’s probably me being cynical as I’m sure this is a story Gaiman’s been dying to tell. Hey, it could be! Really, I just don’t much care for his writing style. It’s plodding, oh so bloody plodding, and the story isn’t even that complex - a woman in armour and a trio of dwarfs go to a sleeping woman in a castle! 

It’s 60-ish pages with lots of drawings to fill it out to that length and yet this book somehow feels even longer. It’s basically all about the sleeper awakening at the end because that’s when interesting things start happening, eclipsing the nothing and even more nothing that took place before. 

Chris Riddell’s art is fine and his drawings are presented in black, white and gold, which is an unusual but good choice. Except none of his drawings are particularly memorable or unique so I wouldn’t say the art stood out.

I know fairy tales were originally much darker than most people realise, and that’s what Gaiman’s going for, a kind of callback to those days while also mixing in progressive elements too. Alright, cool. But reading it is quite tedious as Gaiman’s taken a simple story and padded the hell out of it with lengthy descriptions of landscapes, objects - all kinds of things I forgot as soon as I read them - and average drawings. 

Gaiman fans will eat The Sleeper and the Spindle up because it’s more of the same stuff he always churns out. I felt very meh about this pedestrian reimagining of some old stories.

The Sleeper and The Spindle

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