The Sleeper and the Spindle

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman is a unique twist on the Sleeping Beauty story.  Sleeping Beauty and the people in her castle have been asleep for years. However, this sleeping sickness seems to be spreading. First, the nearby villages fall asleep, then the villages near them, and so on. Soon, the entire kingdom is asleep, and it’s up to three dwarfs and the queen of the neighboring kingdom to figure out how to put an end to the curse.

This story has an ingenious blend of fairy tales. For instance, the queen is a character from another story. I’ll just say that she is someone who has also been asleep for a long time and let you figure out who she is. There are also additional elements to the story that help flesh it out. Those who are asleep do more than sleep, an old woman who is trapped inside the castle and immune to the curse, and the more one delves into the story, the more it becomes apparent that the details of the Sleeping Beauty that appear in each retelling are not what they seem. Not to mention that the ending will leave you thinking, “Wait, what? What just happened?” Overall, this is a quick read that goes more in-depth than one would think the amount of pages would allow.

Genre: Fantasy

Setting: A fairy tale land in an unspecified historical era.

Number of pages: 66

Objectionable content? A small amount of violence, one death, an occasional corpse, and unsettling factors (i.e. the sleepers)

Can children read this? Yes, as long as they are not easily upset by unsettling elements in stories. However, this book is best for teenagers and adults.

Who would enjoy this? Anyone who enjoys Neil Gaiman’s other works, and anyone who enjoys fairy tale remakes.

Themes: Beauty, power, loss, choices, strong women, and the need to control other’s emotions vs. the strength of only feeling your emotions.

Rating: Five stars

Sharon Reads: Dean Koontz’s Oddkins: A Fable for All Ages

Oddkins: A Fable for All Ages

Oddkins: A Fable for All Ages by Dean Koontz is a book that readers from elementary school ages through adults can understand and enjoy, with beautiful illustrations and a story that feels very real. Isaac Bodkins was a magical toy-maker who creates toys that can come to life in order to help children trough difficult times. He calls his creations Oddkins. However, Isaac has passed away sooner than expected, and before he could train the next toy-maker. The race is now on to see whether a good or evil magic toy-maker will wield the power. A team of Isaac’s Oddkins are on the move to find the toy shop of Isaac’s chosen heir, while evil toys from the hidden sub-basement try to stop them from reaching their goal before the evil toy-maker can purchased Isaac’s toy shop.

Oddkins: A Fable for All Ages might be Koontz’s first book intended for more than just adult readers, but you would never know it from the read. Living toys are a new idea, but Koontz instilled a new life to the idea, with strong personalities for each of the living toys. I loved the idea that the toys are intended to help children facing special difficulties, although I wished all children could have one rather than just the ones with the ‘potential for greatness’, since I think everyone has that potential. However, that would make for one busy magic toy-maker! The Oddkins that face the action, both good and bad, have quirks and personalities that often made me smile or shudder, depending. The good Oddkin’s quest for Colleen Shannon’s shop, Isaac’s nephew’s search for the truth, and an ex-con in search for more ways to inflict pain intersect with the evil Oddkins intent on securing their future and the success of the dark toy-maker. There are epic battles, internal debates, and characters that will take hold of your heart. What else do you need?

I recommend Oddkins: A Fable for All Ages for adults that are fans of Koontz works as well as adults, teens, and the middle grade set. On a scale of one to five, I would give Oddkins a full five stars. There is a combination of fast passed action with enough introspection and personal discovery to keep readers of all ages and all genre preferences entertained and turning the pages.

(This review was originally published on Sharon the Librarian.)

Book Review: The City’s Son by Tom Pollock

[Cover]

The City’s Son

The City’s Son by Tom Pollock is an urban fantasy novel which marks the debut of the author. The book is suitable for young adults and adults.

Beth Bradley is a rebel, and a girl great with a can of spray paint. She spend her fee time tagging the city, while her friend Pen scrawls poetry to accompany it. Beth’s father is lost in grief over his late wife, and Pen is trapped by the expectations and demands of others. After a daring evening an apparent betrayal separates the friends and sends them both out into a world born of the very essence of London. They have very different paths, and different dreams. Beth meets Urchin, the prince of the streets who opens her eyes to the layers of the world around her. The city and all of its components are alive, and there is a major battle brewing. Reach, a source of death and destruction, is trying to rise, and the city’s creature are abuzz with rumors that Urchin’s Goddess and mother might be returning to fight the final battle. But when the battle is over, who will have won and what will the final price be?

The City’s Son is a original and engaging read. Beth is a risk taker, and is so used to making her own decisions that she does no bow to the voices of those who expect her to. A prince, his people, and their expectations can not withstand her will. She is a strong girl, but still carries a vulnerability that makes her feel real. The collection of the city’s creatures were imaginative an believable. I could easily see some of those statues coming to life, of reflections in skyscrapers taking on a life of their own. The mix of imagination and absolute reality come together perfectly. I will admit to looking at light bulbs, telephone wires, and bricks in a different way since finishing the book.

I highly recommend The City’s Son to teens and adults that like urban fantasy novels that carry with it a fresh perspective of the world, and yourself. There is just as much exploration into what Beth, Pen, and others want as there is the physical world around them.  The story is unique, with a skill in building a world that exists along side our own that reminds me of Neil Gaiman and Holly Black’s work. The introduction to a society that very well could be real, but since we are so good at ignoring what we do not want to see I doubt we would ever notice it. If you are looking for something fun, adventurous, and different then this is a must read!

A version of this review was previously posted on Sharon the Librarian.