TeacherofYA's Book Blog

Spindle Fire – Lexa Hillyer (Review)

Title: Spindle Fire (Spindle Fire #1)
Author: Lexa Hillyer
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2017 (April 11)
Genre: YA Fairy Tales, YA Fantasy, YA Retellings
This review can be found on my BlogTeacherofYA’s Tumblr, or my Goodreads page

My Review:

Ever since I saw the cover, and learned it was a Sleeping Beauty retelling, I wanted to read Spindle Fire. I was turned down on every platform  (Netgalley, Edelweiss) and thought I would only be able to read it once it released. I was pretty bummed: most people are enamored with Beauty & The Beast retellings…but my favorite fairy tale has always been Sleeping Beauty. I’ve read a couple retellings that just missed the mark for me. I didn’t think anyone would be able to do the story justice (without pretty much regurgitating the original).

I was wrong. And I’m glad I was wrong.

I have to give credit to this incredible cover…simple yet so much is going on. Kind of like Spindle Fire

I was lucky enough to win my own ARC of the book by being a member of the #SpindleSquad on Twitter and via Lexa’s newsletter. I was over the moon. Then I realized I better like the book: it would be horrible if I read it after being all excited for it all this time and then I hated the book. 

So that put a lot of pressure on me and I didn’t want to pick it up…I had read mixed reviews and I didn’t want to dislike Alexa’s book when I liked her as a person so much.

This is why I’m glad I listen to my gut: 99.9% of the time, my gut guides me to read books that I just internally know I will love. I’m so glad I read this. I realty am. 

But why am I blathering on when I should be telling you about the book? Sorry for the tangent! 

Spindle Fire introduces us to several POVs…but the main ones are our two sister: Aurora and Isabelle (Isbe for short). Right from the beginning we learn about each sister.

Aurora as a baby had her sense of touch and her voice tithed to fairies. She is beautiful and graceful but cannot speak. She cannot feel when she hurts herself and must be careful to check herself in case of injury. She is the Delucian King’s heir and is betrothed to Prince Philip of Aubin. She gets lost in her romance novels and she communicates with her sister, Isabelle, through a pattern of taps on the palm (a made-up language that they have perfected over years of being secluded from the world).

Isabelle, or Isbe for short, is also the King’s daughter. However, she is illegitimate. Her mother was sent away when she was born with all the other mistresses of the King when he married Aurora’s mother. Despite that, Autora and she are quite close. While Aurora lost her sense of touch and voice, Isbe lost her sight. She takes the blame for all that goes wrong to protect her silent sister from the council that “parents” them, as they have lost both the King and Queen and are both still under 18.

After learning about our main characters and their challenges, we find out that Prince Philip, Aurora’s betrothed, AND his brother were killed on the way to the wedding. The council brings the girls in to inform them that the plan is still on: Aurora will still marry and the alliance between the two kingdoms shall commence as usual. How? Fortunately, there is a third brother for her to marry.

And Isbe? 

She’s to be taken to a convent in Isolé at dawn the next day. After all, she cannot inherit the throne as a “bastard” child of the King, and she’s blind – so she’s useless to the council. The girls panic: they have never been separated before. Aurora depends on Isbe to be her voice and Isbe depends on Aurora to be her eyes. 

However, Isbe is strong-willed, and when her childhood friend Gilbert, a stable boy at the palace, offers to take her with him to his cousin’s farm instead, Isbe readily agrees. She can’t go live in a convent. She just can’t. She’s too wild and free. Before she leaves, the sisters fight…and before they talk again, Isbe is off in the middle of the night with Gil.

A map of the Spindle world, with the convent of Isolé and LaMorte

As you can see on the map above, the left side, LaMorte, is controlled by the powerful Faerie Malfleur. 

Aurora knows she must stay and marry the last remaining Aubian Prince, as Deluce is close to Malfleur’s dangerous lands and she can attack at any time…by marrying the Aubian Prince, she will secure an alliance that will help aid Deluce if Malfleur were to attack. She knows she must stay, but she knows she can beg the council to keep Isbe, too. So Aurora goes to find her only to discover that Isbe has already left…but she couldn’t have gone far, right?

Aurora runs after Isbe, but after getting lost in the large forest at night and being unable to call for help, she comes across a small cottage. She decides to take refuge for the remainder of the night, but when she goes upstairs, she sees s beautiful golden spinning wheel, something she has never before encountered. (Sounds familiar now, right?)

As Aurora finds herself entranced by the golden Spinning Wheel, she reaches out to touch it, and she pricks her finger…and feels pain for the first time. Oh, and she passes out.

Aurora wakes up in a strange land to a rugged man…who aims a dagger at her throat.

Meanwhile, Isbe learns on the farm of a rare sleeping sickness that is spreading across the palace…Aurora was flung asleep, and as she was taken back to the palace, the Sleeping spread to anyone around her. Isbe knows she must bring back the Aubian Prince that was supposed to marry Aurora…Malfleur is obviously the cause of this disease, and she needs the help Aubia promised to save her sister.

While Aurora is trapped in a dream world, Isbe must attempt to be brave and save her sister…without sight, without title, without her sister. Luckily Gil is there, as he’s always been…but when Isbe finds herself alone, she must do the saving on her own.

Is It Classroom-Appropriate?

I honestly don’t see why not…but I can’t fight for a use for it, either. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a great story and I enjoyed the different POVs (the faeiries, Isbe, Aurora). One in particular was stronger than the rest: Isbe’s POV, with no sensory input from visual cues, is the most interesting experience. You actually hear the sounds and can tell that Hillyer did some major research to write Isbe. I think it would be beneficial for students to see the difference in voice from a sighted person vs an unsighted person. Also, the challenges Isbe faces and her determination are inspiring. 

Unfortunately, this is only book one, and there’s definitely a cliffhanger. I don’t like using books with cliffhangers for the classroom. It could be used in a writing class for sure, to show the strength of the different POVs, but I can’t really see any academic use…as a standalone, it would have worked, but I would keep this one as recreational outside classroom reading. 

So I give Spindle Fire ★★★☆☆ for classroom use. Time to bring out Dumbledore! 

Hypothetically, yes, it could be used…but there are better choices. And you don’t want to torture your students with s cliffhanger…that’s just mean.

Age Range

So it’s not listed on Lexile. This doesn’t really surprise me because it’s not really an “educational” use book. Personally, there was only one challenge when I was reading it, and that was the use of third person present tense…my most hated tense of all. I hate reading present tense, and it’s hard to get into the rhythm of switching back and forth between the book narrative with past tense details, then returning to present tense when a character is “talking.”  So that’s a challenge. I would recommend a higher reading level for that alone. 

Content-wise, I think it’s best to keep for older readers: there’s some mature topics, but nothing obscene. I would say 15 and up to ensure comprehension and appropriateness all around. I’m better safe than sorry and I always err on the side of caution. Make sure the reader is accelerated or quite able to handle the POV shifts and the tense itself. If you have a teen that loves retellings, I would encourage Spindle Fire…but I would stick with teens.

End Result:

You would think after all that talk of tenses that I would rate this book lower…

I just can’t. Though I’m never a fan of third person present tense, I got used to it. The story was worth it. There’s so much going on and there are so many questions I still have…I can’t get the characters or the book out of my head. I haven’t been able to choose something new because I have a literal book hangover. I want to know what happens next! I need to know more about what’s going on! We are left at the end with a pivot point, ready to change the direction of the story, and I am left screaming, “WHAT HAPPENS NOW???”

Whenever that happens, I have to give the book ★★★★★. Or, in my own rating scale:

Now I know I’m actually in the minority on this. I’ve seen the Goodreads ratings for this book. Some have to do with the tense and some have to do with the POV shifts. Though I wasn’t a fan of the tense, I liked the POV shifts. Didn’t think I would, but I did. The story was unique and eloquent and I loved it…after my brain adjusted to the tense. If you’re impatient, this might not be the book for you. Read the other reviews and get a full picture. 

I, on one hand, loved it, but I don’t want to tell you how awesome it is and have you Curse my name to the heavens. Don’t want that at all.

Please don’t hate me if you don’t like it. Please?

What do I do now, Lexa? I don’t know what to do with myself until the next book!!! Argh! 

Ok, I’m off to go wait in the corner, curled up into the fetal position until 2018. I’ll talk to you blogger bunnies later! ::cries::