Leslie Vedder's YA fantasy, The Bone Spindle, is an energetic and adventurous genderbent retelling of "Sleeping Beauty" with a powerful female friendship at its core.
A century ago, Prince Briar Rose of Andar was "cast... into a deathless sleep" to escape a curse placed upon him by the villainous Spindle Witch. Treasure hunter Fi is exploring a ruin in the nearby kingdom of Darfell when she pricks her finger on a bone spindle, a sign that she is "destined to wake Briar Rose" with a kiss and free Andar from the Spindle Witch. Fi and her partner Shane, a mercenary "well-known for her aggressive brand of justice," set out on a quest to "pass through the Forest of Thorns, enter the sleeping castle" and wake the prince.
Vedder weaves elements of "Sleeping Beauty" into an inventive quest narrative that places teenage girls--who are often marginalized and victimized in fairy tales--in positions of importance. The Bone Spindle alternates points of view between reserved, bookish Fi (who has "warm tan skin") and impulsive, axe-wielding Shane (who has "fair skin"), who are distinct individuals who share entertaining and humorous back-and-forth exchanges. Their reluctant partnership's transformation into a genuine friendship is a highlight of Vedder's debut. Fi's developing feelings for the blue-eyed, golden-haired Briar Rose--despite her resolution to "keep [her] heart out of it"--and Shane's flirtation with a mysterious witch known as Red add elements of romantic tension. Vedder raises questions of free will versus fate as Fi and Shane face the weight of their heroic destinies while also attempting to forge their own paths. --Alanna Felton, freelance reviewer