Witnessing the work that both Chris Riddell and Neil Gaiman produce is an indulgent pleasure, especially as we see more and more books published that are a collaboration of both men’s cultivated talents. Dark, sinister, magical, the work of both Gaiman and Riddell, illustrator and Children’s Laureate, has been building with The Graveyard Book, Coraline, Fortunately the Milk, Odd and the Frost Giants as well an illustrated edition of Neverwhere and include The Sleeper and the Spindle, a weaving of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, which is a reimagined fairy tale dedicated to Gaiman’s daughter.
An equal culmination of story told through illustration and also words, the beautifully published book holds most readers spellbound to the end. On the evening of her wedding, a young, dynamic queen sets out to rescue a princess from a sleeping enchantment. She casts aside her wedding attire, and instead carries her chain mail and her sword and treks with the brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This independent queen is keen to decide her own future, with somewhat of a modern day twist injected into this fairy tale, and the princess rescued is not quite what she seems.
Juxtaposing the traditional familiar with a fresh new touch, this scrumptious, enigmatic yet short tale showcases the talent of its creators. Lavishly published, crammed with stunning Chris Riddell illustrations enhanced with metallic ink, this is something you can envisage gifting to someone who enjoys immersing themselves into a fantastical world, a fantastical feminist world, perhaps. Shortlisted for The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2016, The Sleeper and the Spindle, is a fairytale with women at the core of the story, heroes, villains, protagonists, leading the way throughout the fantasy. With some adult themes, it is clear this is not intended as an illustrated title for children. Very much geared towards young adults and adults, the story-tale hints at menstruation with the classic blood excretion from a finger prick and includes a practical-thinking heroine, who has no qualms of kissing other women in order to succeed in her mission.
A provocatively dark tale retaining many of the classic Grimm fairytale elements, Gaiman and Riddell satisfy with this short dip into a fantasy. A beautiful book holding wonderful illustration, it is impossible to be disappointed by this title.
The Sleeper and the Spindle was published by Bloomsbury in 2014.