The Sleeper and the Spindle

February 11, 2017
The Sleeper and the Spindle Book Cover The Sleeper and the Spindle
Neil Gaiman
Dark Fantasy
September 22nd, 2015
May 3rd, 2014
Chris Riddell

A thrillingly reimagined fairy tale from the truly magical combination of author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell – weaving together a sort-of Snow White and an almost Sleeping Beauty with a thread of dark magic, which will hold readers spellbound from start to finish.

On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents.

Lavishly produced, packed with glorious Chris Riddell illustrations enhanced with metallic ink, this is a spectacular and magical gift.

(via Graphic Novel Back Cover)


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 ( I mean, he has a point. Why didn’t any of the previous heroes who arrived at Sleeping Beauty castle set fire to the roses? They just decided to climb over them? Silliness in retrospect. ) As with all fairy tales, this one is built upon lust for beauty, power, youth, and freedom. But all threaded together into a unique spool of yarn.

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?


  • Laila@BigReadingLife February 11, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    This is on my TBR! I didn’t even imagine that it might be an audio book – I don’t know why, just the graphic novel into audio book is a strange turnaround in my mind, I guess. Either way, it sounds awesome!

    • Jackie B February 13, 2017 at 10:37 am

      I agree! I had no idea that such things happened. But, I did some research, and it’s apparently common for popular graphic novels to become full-cast audiobooks. This has also happened with Nimona and Diary of a Whimpy Kid are both set up like this. It’s definitely a different experience. I want to read the physical book for this now, and I’ve already read Nimona, so I’d like to listen to that audiobook. I think it will be really interesting to compare the two formats.

  • Sarah @ Reviews and Readathons February 11, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    This one has been on my list for awhile. I love retellings & Neil Gaiman, so it’s a given I’ll read it someday. I didn’t, however, know that the audiobook had a full cast. I’ll definitely have to check it out!

    • Jackie B February 13, 2017 at 10:38 am

      That’s exactly why I picked this up, Sarah! Gaiman and a retelling? Yes, please! I hope that you enjoy this when you get to it, in whichever format you choose to pick up!

  • Books, Vertigo and Tea February 11, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    I loved this one. I picked it up as EBook, also unaware tat it was so illustrated. I think my experience might have been even more enhanced if I had snagged a physical copy. As always, Gaiman did not disappoint. What I find funny is the reviews I stating that this is an LGBT read. I think maybe other see the iconic picture and do not read this thoroughly? I absolutely love how well he avoided the traditional tropes. So difficult in fairy tales!

    • Jackie B February 13, 2017 at 10:42 am

      Graphic novels in eBook format are always challenging for me. I don’t even bother checking them out via Overdrive any longer. I don’t mind getting them on NetGalley, though. The protected PDFs look great on my iPad (but look terrible on my Kindle).

      I’ve also seen that this is an LGBT read! I have some theories… Like you said, the iconic illustration can be assumed to that. 2014 was when we started to hear more about diversity in books, so perhaps people latched on to that? In 2014, this was progressive. But now, it’s just, well, a graphic novel. I just hope people don’t get disappointed when they are expecting one thing and get another. Who knows where these theories come from– I thought Miss Peregine was horror for a while! Wrong.

      • Books, Vertigo and Tea February 13, 2017 at 6:15 pm

        Yes! I read Miss Peregrine’s when it first came out and it was never marked as horror. Then recently I saw it being discussed and listed in the genre. I was very confused about that.

        So I have to read the protected PDFs on my PC. Do you have a specific program to ream them on your Kindle (even though it looks crappy haha)? I cannot get them to work!

        • Jackie B February 15, 2017 at 9:36 am

          I read the protected PDFs on my Kindle Fire or my iPad using the Adobe Digital Editions app. Since the Kindle Fire is more of a tablet than a specific eReader, it works. I’d rather read them on my iPad than my Kindle, though. It looks terrible often. O_o C’est la vie!

          • Books, Vertigo and Tea February 15, 2017 at 4:12 pm

            Maybe it is because I am using a Kindle App on a Galaxy Tab that I cannot get it to work?

          • Jackie B February 16, 2017 at 9:28 am

            Yeah– It probably looks terrible on there! I hate using my Kindle read the protected PDFs. Have you tried the Adobe Digital Editions app? There are instructions on NetGalley’s help page on how to set it up.

  • Resh Susan @ The Book Satchel February 11, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    Glad you loved the audio book. You should definitely look for the illustrated version. It is so beautiful. I want to buy it some day

    • Jackie B February 13, 2017 at 10:43 am

      That’s high praise! I will definitely have to look out for the illustrated version. I would love to do a compare and contrast of these two versions. It will be interesting to see what was adapted to make the audiobook experience more enjoyable.

  • Jasmine February 18, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Somehow I am having trouble commenting on your blog tonight. Anyway, I have tried out a bit of audiobook on Harry Potter and I understand what you mean about additional music and sound effects. It is very good and makes reading and especially imagination easier. Do you follow with the book when you listen to the audio?

    • Jackie B February 19, 2017 at 10:42 pm

      Bah, my blog is a pain sometimes. But I see it now! 🙂 Just be patient with it. It might be ornery, but in the end, it loves me.

      I haven’t followed along between book and audio since I was a child! Do you remember Books on Tape? Where you would hear a sound when it was time to turn the page? Wow. That’s a HUGE blast from my past. I will certainly need to try that sometime. Perhaps with Harry Potter? I do adore Jim Dale’s narration…

      • Jasmine February 21, 2017 at 7:34 pm

        I just noticed the reply button on your comment thread now.. my bad.. sorry for starting a new chain so many times.. I think the reply on my blog is on the right and somehow yours is on the left..

        • Jackie B February 22, 2017 at 1:52 pm

          Haha– there is nothing wrong with that. Each template does its own thing. You are welcome to start as many chains as you want on my blog. <3 I just love discussing with you!

          Yeah, I'm showing my age with Books on Tape, I guess. Really, the point is I have only read-along with audio if it was sort of recording which played a sound when the page needed to be turned. I think it would be a good idea to start that again, however! That's definitely a new experience I should look into.

  • theorangutanlibrarian February 19, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    ooh yes Neil Gaiman is a massive selling point!! And I love the look of the art!

    • Jackie B February 19, 2017 at 10:43 pm

      Exactly! I love his Sandman series. This is only slightly reminiscent of that, but we all know he can write a quality comic. So, graphic novels should be a great format. 🙂

      • theorangutanlibrarian February 20, 2017 at 6:29 pm

        Ahh I’ve just started it- the first two volumes were so good! Definitely!! Awesome!

  • Jasmine February 21, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    I am aware of books on tape but I think I tried the books on CD before. It’s been a long time.. can’t remember too clearly.. haha..

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