There’s something special about turning Ye Olden Fable that is a literal snooze-fest into an exciting multiverse-spanning race against time with magic, love, abandoned jail parties, a smidge of astrophysics, and some other witchy ingredients that makes a modern fairy tale a winner
This one is a fun one. Not to say that Harrow’s other short stories and novels aren’t fun, but there’s something special about turning Ye Olden Fable that is a literal snooze-fest into an exciting multiverse-spanning race against time with magic, love, abandoned jail parties, a smidge of astrophysics, and some other witchy ingredients that makes a modern fairy tale a winner.
Zinnia of Ohio just turned twenty-one and a terminal illness all but guarantees she won’t see twenty-two. She has a lifelong obsession with Sleeping Beauty, and not just the warped Disney version. Her best friend Charm is Zinnia’s version of Prince Charming: Zinnia’s true life companion, caring and defending her since youth. Charm throws Zinnia a Sleeping Beauty-themed twenty-first birthday bash, but when she pricks her finger, she’s finds herself whisked away into the twisted fairy-tale world of Primrose, the princess of the Sleeping Beauty version most of us know.
Primrose has less agency than a tree stump in the original tale, so we barely had a chance to get to know her. Whilst Zinnia seeks a way to Quantum Leap her way home, oh boy, we discover Primrose is much more that she initially seems – especially while teamed up with a dying Midwestern girl with a wormhole to catch. Who needs brave knights when you’ve got an interdimensional iPhone with inexplicably still-functioning WiFi that sources the courage and passion needed to rise above her adversaries?
Primrose, Zinnia, Charm, and a couple of other surprising not-who-they-seem character-reveals round out a clever cast, each with legitimate desires and struggles that are continuously tested, keeping tension levels high throughout the lean 100+ pages. This is an easy story to devour in one sitting. I love chewing over Harrow’s prose so I broke the reading up into smaller courses, re-reading passages to better reflect on some of the bigger themes that the story represents: progressive, intelligent women with agency taking their story back from a historically misogynistic series of retellings of this might-actually-be-kind-of-cool tale, if someone were to do it modern justice. Luckily we have Alix Harrow and her gift of words to spin this thread, so don’t sleep on it.
Review by Adam Weller
8/10 from 1 reviews
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