Fairy tale retellings always intrigue me, and when I was looking for another book to add to an Amazon order so I could get free same-day shipping, I settled on Spindle Fire because it promised to be an intriguing retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story. Featuring not one princess but two, and one of them a bastard trying to save her enchanted sister, with a wicked faerie lurking the background... Well, it had potential.
The story follows Isabelle, the bastard princess, and her younger, legitimate sister Aurora. Isabelle is blind and Aurora is mute and has no sense of touch, those senses being taken from the girls by faeries when they were small. When Aurora's fiance, the prince of the neighboring kingdom, is killed on his way to marry her, the kingdom is threatened with chaos and Isabelle is to be sent away. So she runs away instead, and Aurora follows her, and in the process stumbles across a golden spinning wheel, where she pricks her finger and ends up in a dream world called Sommeil and apparently haunted by the long-thought-dead faerie Belcoeur. Meanwhile, the faerie Malfleur, said to have killed her sister Belcoeur, raises troops to march against the kingdom.
The most intriguing thing here was that Isabelle is a blind heroine. Aurora's muteness and lack of touch are interesting, but ultimately not used much because in Sommeil her tithes seem to be waived and her voice and sense of touch come back to her. Since she spends most of the book in Sommeil, she doesn't really come across as "challenged" as she actually is in the real world. Isabelle, on the other hand, spends the entire time in the real world, where her lack of sight is a huge disability. She manages, but once she leaves the places that she already knows, it becomes infinitely harder. And yet Hillyer manages to have a great sense of imagery, showing how Isabelle pictures the world through touch and smell and sound even without her sight.
Other than that, the book wasn't as intriguing as I thought it would be. Some of the plotting and world-building definitely seems confused; like, is this supposed to be our world, or not? There were indications in both directions. And what's up with Malfleur and Belcoeur? Because some people say that Mafleur is evil but she says that she saved everyone from Belcoeur who didn't really seem to be doing anything...? There's a big info-dump chapter near the end of the book that I thought would straighten this out, but ultimately it didn't. And as for breaking the curse...what a cop-out that actually was, and I feel like it actually removes a lot of the promise of the second book because now all that's left is dealing with Malfleur, and military conflicts are typically less interesting than twisty curses.
Overall, this was an okay book. It's marketed as young adult but I feel like it's more middle-grade in reading level; there are a few parts that trend more YA, but as a whole it doesn't have a YA feel to it. With that and the other confused aspects of it, I'm not really sure I'm intrigued to read the second book when it comes out.
2 stars out of 5.