Recently, I needed some audiobooks for a trip (sense a theme when it comes to randomly acquired books? They are all audiobooks!), and I ran across The Sleeper and the Spindle. Pretty cover art? Written by Neil Gaiman?! Sold. I was prepared for spellbinding storytelling. I was not prepared for my first full-cast audiobook.
The Sleeper and the Spindle is a retelling of sorts. Part Sleeping Beauty, part Snow White, 100% Neil Gaiman dark fantasy filled with twists. Our Queen is reluctant to get married but on her wedding day, her Dwarf friends arrive with a wedding present and some bad news: The sleeping sickness from the kingdom on the other side of the mountains is spreading into the Queen’s kingdom. And not slowly either. Setting aside her plans, the Queen and her dwarven friends embark on a journey to stop the sickness. Rumors tell of witches and dark magic putting the princess to sleep over 60 years ago. But they are just rumors, and the Queen cannot let her kingdom be threatened.
“There are choices,” she thought, when she had say long enough. “There are always choices.”
As with many of Gaiman’s tales, our story in intriguing from the start and slow to develop. As it to be expected, albeit unpredictable, Gaiman takes everything stereotypical the reader might know about traditional fairy tales and twists them slightly. There are a handful of fascinating gradual reveals. There are some hilarious moments of common sense being applied to problem-solving in fairy tales (
You don’t need princes to save you. I don’t have a lot of patience for stories in which women are rescued by men.
Now, I listened to the full-cast audiobook version. You might ask, “What’s so important about that, Jackie? You listen to all sorts of audiobooks!” and you would be correct! But I have never listened to a full-cast recording,
and I have never listened to an audiobook adaptation of an illustrated story. Unbeknownst to me, The Sleeper and the Spindle is a gorgeous brief graphic novel illustrated by Chris Riddell. I only discovered this once I finished the brief audiobook, and I know now I will certainly have to read the illustrated version. That said, I loved the full cast audiobook. Each character had their own voice. There is music to set the mood as well as to assist with transitions. There are sound effects to emphasize key points. I don’t feel like anything was lost without the illustrations, either. The characters were vivid and striking. Subtle and a bit spooky. Just like Gaiman would have wanted.
Learning how to be strong, to feel her own emotions and not another’s had been hard; but once you learned the trick of it, you did not forget.
With a few twists, Gaiman eliminated almost all fairy tale tropes in The Sleeper and the Spindle. In doing so, and featuring the women he did, Gaiman provided a swift feminist kick to tradition. A beautiful story, I would recommend it to anyone who loves fairy tales, surprise twists, and dark fantasy.
What do you think?
- What do you think of fairy tale retellings?
- Which do you prefer: Graphic novels or audiobooks?
- Have you ever listened to the audiobook for a graphic novel? What do you think of this idea?