Books, Reviews

Spindle Fire: Interesting Ideas, Poor and Problematic Execution

Spindle Fire"Spindle Fire" by Lexa Hillyer, HarperTeen 2017

Lexa Hillyer
HarperCollins
April 11 2017

A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer is described by Publisher HarperCollins as “enthralling” and a “wholly original reimagining of a classic faerie story.” In truth the book is a mishmash of YA tropes set to a plot that plods, rushes, then abruptly ends. True, some of Hillyer’s plot ideas and themes are actually interesting and had real potential, but the book doesn’t live up to either. Worse, the execution of those ideas are either problematic or lazy, turning my disappointment in the book to active dislike.

On the surface Spindle Fire should be everything I love—a retelling of a classic fairytale that introduces themes such as sisterly relationships and dreams versus reality. There’s even a smattering of political intrigue and societal criticism. Sadly none of them amount to much. I do, however, give props to Hillyer’s idea of parents trading their newborn children’s qualities and abilities to fairies in return for others. Aurora, for instance, has her ability to speak and her sense of touch traded by her parents for qualities more “befitting” a princess. Meanwhile Aurora’s illegitimate half-sister, Isabelle, has her sight traded away in return for another of Aurora’s “gifts.” Spindle Fire is largely told from Aurora’s and Isabelle’s points of view, but unfortunately both characters are too similar to Sansa and Arya Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire to be truly interesting. The parallels between Aurora and Isabelle’s relationship and that of the fairy who cursed Aurora with her own fairy sister were also lazy, but I’m a sucker for sisterly relationships so I read on to the end.

Warning: Some spoilers beyond this point

By that time Aurora had regained the use of her voice in an arguably abelist development and Isabelle had embarked on a wild and unwise caper (on both the character’s and author’s side). Neither narrative seems well-thought-out and Hillyer’s addition of social criticism and political intrigue to each of the sisters’ plots respectively seemed to be an afterthought. Both girls also find male love-interests: an antagonistic yet somehow still boring teen boy for Aurora, a too-perfect-to-be-true teen boy for Isabelle. Predictable, but not problematic—until you consider that the both girls’ conflicts hinge completely on their love-interests…and theirs isn’t the only one either.

At that point I wasn’t even enjoying the book anymore and only kept reading only to see how the story was wrapped up. To my irritation it wasn’t; the book stops cold right at the climax when Aurora and Isabelle are to be finally reunited and each of their stories brought together. The reader is left with several hanging subplots, unresolved romantic tension, and even a battle and possible war on the literal horizon of Aurora and Isabelle’s childhood home. The plot cut off so abruptly I actually checked and re-checked to see if I was somehow missing pages from my review copy. I wasn’t. Suffice to say I was beyond irritated with the author for ending the story like that and her editor for allowing her.

In sum, I recommend giving Spindle Fire a pass. None of Hillyer’s ideas are fully developed, most of them are problematic, and the story abruptly ends with no resolution. I read a review copy for free and still wanted my money back.