Saturday, October 14, 2017

Book Review: Five Magic Spindles

Goodreads // Amazon

When Rooglewood Press published a collection of Cinderella retellings a few years ago, Five Glass Slippers, I snatched it up. To my delight, the creative spins on a tale that's been told hundreds of times blew me away.

And when the next collection of Beauty and the Beast retellings, Five Enchanted Roses, came out, I was even more delighted! It was clear that all these writers deserved to win the contests Rooglewood was hosting; these were talented, creative individuals, all with their own distinctive approach.

Well, I'm happy to report that the third collection, Five Magic Spindles, is just as wonderful as its predecessors! In fact, it might be the most unique set of retellings yet.

The Man on the Buckskin Horse // Rachel Kovaciny

When I first heard that one of the stories was a Western, I was . . . well, skeptical. I don't read Western books or watch Western movies all that often. I'm a fantasy nerd at heart!

But within the first chapter, Rachel Kovaciny had me hooked with her dry humor and the no-nonsense midwife Emma Thornberry. I didn't think it was possible to plunk Sleeping Beauty into a log cabin, toss in a farmer and a gunslinger, and come out with anything remotely like the original fairy tale. But she did it!

"The closer I get to fifty, the rarer sensible folks become."

Favorite Things:
  • Emma. She's practical and blunt and hilarious. Why don't we have more books from middle-aged perspectives?
  • Snark!
  • Palmer, the swoon-worthy gunman, has a deep backstory packed into just a few pages.
  • I felt like all the characters had a history--their own stories, their relationships with each other, everything.
  • It was such fun picking out all the Sleeping Beauty elements in this wildly different setting. I won't spoil anything for you, but it was definitely creative!
  • The heartwarming ending.

Not-so-favorite Things:
  • I must have missed a detail, because I thought Palmer was about 20 years older than he actually was, right up until the end. Oops.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and flew right through it. 4.5 stars!

Guardian of Our Beauty // Kathryn McConaughy

I remember when Anne Elisabeth Stengl (the lovely author who runs Rooglewood) shared a collection of first lines from a bunch of writers entering the Five Magic Spindles contests. And I still remember how Kathryn McConaughy's first line about a king drowning in daughters jumped out at me. That same amusing, old fairy tale style is all over her story!

This is possibly the most exotic tale of the collection. Despite being written in a slightly more distant manner, I was fully immersed in the Middle Eastern-inspired setting and its almost mythological flavor.

Palli did not know how she could save anyone. But if all she had to was sleep--well, she could do that! She slept every night. When her other small sisters wondered why Palli went so willingly to bed, Palli only blinked at them and said, "It is good practice."

Favorite Things:
  • Palli, the Sleeping Beauty character, was so sweet and altruistic.
  • All the cool creatures! They were what gave the story a mythical slant. At first, they seemed random, but I should've known better--they all became important later on.
  • The setting. It felt like there was a whole world to explore.
  • Political happenings that were realistic, not ideal, but still not dry at all.
  • Neriya, the prince: oh my goodness, he's a sweetheart too! So brave and endearing.
  • The God Who Answers. I shan't say more. It's best to read it for yourself.

Not-so-favorite Things:
  • At times, like when I thought the inclusion of the creatures was random, it felt like the story meandered. But in the end, it did tie together, so this isn't completely a negative!

This was another pleasant surprise! A solid 4 stars.

The Ghost of Briardale // Grace Mullins

I think I was most excited by this middle story when I first read the blurb. I mean, it takes place in an insane asylum! Forgive me, but I have an odd fascination with both crazy characters--both the creepy psychopathic kind and the lovable/gruff/off the rocker kind.

And while there wasn't a lot of those kinds of craziness going on, the delightfully convoluted plot was more than enough to keep me engaged! There's a ghost, a dwarf who can't turn invisible, a miniature prince turned human-sized, a Slavering Swamp Beast, and buckets of enchantment. There's gloomy dungeons, locked towers, and a courtyard full of statues. Doesn't that sound fun?

Never before in his life had Franz wished this much to throttle anyone, but there were important reasons why he couldn't. First, she was a girl, and he would never hit a girl even if she were as annoying as this translucent green creature.

The second reason was that he was helplessly strapped, so, even if she'd been some sort of brute, the only harmful thing he could do was glare.

Favorite Things
  • Franz. Dear, dear Franz! He's exactly the kind of unlikely hero that I love to cheer for! As a banker's clerk wrongly committed to the asylum, he tries so very hard to be the True Hero everyone is looking for. He's not strong enough to slay a dragon, he's never saved anyone, and the only thing he has going for him is a big heart.
  • While Franz was the kind of hero I love to cheer for, Mara was the kind of antagonist I love to hate.
  • Roselee, the green ghost, was adorable.
  • The fairies were trapped in the forms of a squirrel, a chicken, and a lizard. (Yep. You read that right.)
  • Lots of banter.
  • All the magic! It was so layered and complex, with each chapter revealing more and more of the enchantment. I was kept guessing the whole time.
  • A certain subplot I won't name was really sweet.
  • A satisfying ending.

Not-so-favorite Things
  • Not much to say here, except for the very minor disappointment of not including crazy people in the way I expected.

All in all, this was a complete pleasure to read. Props to Grace Mullins for her twisty plot and lovable characters! 5 stars!

Spindle Cursed // Michelle Pennington

Before I knew that all these stories were actually amazing, the presence of a good ol' high fantasy amongst the less-traditional genres was a relief. Spindle Cursed guaranteed at least one story I'd love. And, though all the other stories proved to be far better than I foresaw, I was right about this one--I did love it! It follows the original tale a bit more closely than all the others, but still stands apart in its fleshed-out storyworld and vibrant characters.

The story primarily follows Prince Edmond, a rather dashing, serious, down-to-earth character who completely stole my heart. But all the others were fantastic too! Aaaand this is the only story to include an honest-to-goodness dragon. Instant brownie points right there.

"Martin, I am a fool," Edmond called.

Reining in his horse, Martin turned his craggy face to look back in surprise. As Edmond drew even with him, Martin inquired, "Would Your Highness wish me to agree with you or disagree?"

Favorite Things:
  • Classic fantasy settings that popped off the page rather than settle into dusty clich├ęs.
  • Lona, the fairy who looks after the sleeping princess, lives alone in the thorn-riddled castle and has gone utterly mad. It's wonderful.
  • The rapport between Edmond and Martin reminded me of Sage and Mott from The False Prince at times.
  • Lady Rhoswen is another one of those love-to-hate-them villains!
  • A neat twist on the sleeping curse.
  • Arabella was noble and good-hearted and all around a likeable princess.
  • I absolutely loved how Michelle Pennington dealt with the romance. There was still the magical kiss, but it required a genuine relationship to develop first. It was done really well!

Not-so-favorite Things:
  • At times, some of the action scenes seemed to take a step outside the character's head and became less immersive.

This was a fantastic addition to the collection! It kept a more traditional fairy tale slant, which I loved. 4.5 stars.

Out of the Tomb // Ashley Stangl

Sci-fi is something I haven't read much of either (although there's more of it in my reading diet than there is Westerns), so I wasn't completely sure what to expect. I needn't have worried, because Out of the Tomb was superb! Ashley Stangl thrust me right into a teeming new world full of flora, fauna, and gadgetry I'd never heard of, yet made me feel right at home.

But it was the raw, relatable characters that won me over completely. Tanza, though an alien girl, was a rough-around-the-edges protagonist who wormed her way right into my heart. And her tale flipped Sleeping Beauty upside down, because this time, it's a prince who gets woken!

She turned her back on the spindle and rifled through the boxes of antique medical tools, falling into a quiet rhythm as she searched for anything of value. Most people found tombs eerie, but Tanza luxuriated in the peace.

A man's voice, deep and smooth, flowed through the silence. "I beg your pardon, but are you robbing me?"

Favorite Things:
  • Tanza is bacon-flipping SMART. She robs high-tech tombs for a living and definitely knows how to look after herself.
  • Prince Auren is absolutely adorable. So confused and old-fashioned and struggling to understand the ways of a world one hundred years ahead of him.
  • The concept of virtue names was genius, and it made me love Auren and Tanza even more. I won't explain it, because that's something else you need to read for yourself!
  • Maybe it was just the genre, but somehow I got a few Lunar Chronicles vibes . . .
  • There's so much culture, history, and worldbuilding jam-packed into this novella, and all without resorting to too much telling.
  • Hovercars!
  • Plot twist!
  • The Moon-Cross Festival scene was my favorite thing ever. So precious!

Not-so-favorite Things:
  • Nothing to report here, unless you count my severe distaste for Keffer, Tanza's low-life boss.

I think, surprisingly, this might have been my favorite story in the collection! The ending nearly made me cry, which is difficult to do in less than a hundred pages. I would gladly follow these characters into more adventures. 5 stars!


A rollicking Western. A world of priests, princes, and flying cats. A castle woven in complex enchantments. A prince brave enough to face a dragon. A sci-fi adventure. Five completely different stories that somehow all paid homage to the original Sleeping Beauty we know and love.

This is a strong collection indeed! Just like the two books before it, there's bound to be something in it for everyone; yet you may be pleasantly surprised by stories you didn't even expect to like. I'm giving Five Magic Spindles a smashing FIVE STARS. This is one book I'll be eager to return to in the future!

If you've read Five Magic Spindles, which was your favorite story? If you haven't, tell me which ones looks most promising! (And then get thee to Amazon and go buy it!)


  1. I can't wait to read this book ;p I'd buy all three of these anthologies if I had the money-- definitely asking for them for Christmas!

    1. All three are SOOOO good! Every single story is creative. I hope they find their way under your Christmas tree this year! ;D

  2. This collection looks stellar! It's certainly going on my wish list.

    1. Yay! There's such variety in these collections. Have you read Five Glass Slippers or Five Enchanted Roses?

  3. I really enjoyed all of them too! So excited for the next collection.

    1. Ahhh, you've read it too! :D Yes, Five Poisoned Apples is sure to be a stunning read!

  4. You definitely got me hooked, Tracey. I'm going to *have* to read these!
    And congratulations on being a finalist!! I am also eager to read The Brightest Thread.

    1. Hooray! If you like fairy tales at all, I'm sure you'd enjoy these anthologies! It's encouraging to see how much creativity these newer authors have.

      Aww, thank you. I was thrilled to make it that far. Hopefully The Brightest Thread will make it into your hands sooner rather than later! ;)

  5. Yaaaay! I was looking forward to your review of this! :D And ooooh my, this collection sounds amazing. o.o I was already dying to read it, but now hearing your thoughts...WHY HAVE I NOT READ IT YET??? I literally own it! It's just shameful I haven't picked it up yet.

    I'm with you in that Westerns are not my favorite. Okay, they're like my LEAST favorite. Eheh. I'm noooot a Western girl. So I was dubious when a Western was chosen for this collection. But everyone seems to really like it, so it may surprise me! And that's kind of awesome we get a middle-aged perspective. You're right, that is rare!

    Guardian of Our Beauty looks SO fun! That line you shared, about sleeping. I am laughing so hard! XDDD I think I'm gonna love that one!

    "I think I was most excited by this middle story when I first read the blurb. I mean, it takes place in an insane asylum! Forgive me, but I have an odd fascination with both crazy characters--both the creepy psychopathic kind and the lovable/gruff/off the rocker kind." <-- THIS. IS. LITERALLY ME. It's almost scary how much this is me! I, too, have been most looking forward to this one for those EXACT same reasons! You gotta love those characters off their rocker. The Winter from The Lunar Chronicles kind, ya know? That's sad this story didn't really have that. BUT STILL. IT SOUNDS EPIC. The fairies are trapped in the forms of a squirrel, a chicken, and a lizard??? I NEED TO READ THIS ASAP.

    I like that there's a classic fantasy one amidst the others. I love unique fantasy, but I also require a dose of some good ol' classic fantasy now and again. And Spindle Cursed sounds perfect. I mean, DRAGON. What else do you need?

    Again, we're so similar, because I, too, haven't ventured too deep in the sci-fi genre. It's not my favorite if it gets *too* spacey and filled with technological and science-y stuff. My eyes start to glaze over. But I did overall enjoy A Cinder's Tale in the Five Glass Slippers collection, and, as you know, The Lunar Chronicles is one of my TOP favorite series, so I'd probably enjoy Out of the Tomb as well! It sounds like a load of fun!

    ALL of these stories just look absolutely amazing. I love the unique flavor of each of them. GAH. I CAN'T WAIT TO READ THEM! Thanks for sharing with us, Tracey. I loved reading your thoughts!

    1. (I just have to say, your comments are always 100% fun to read. ^_^)

      That's right, you do own this one! I remember seeing some pretty photos of the three collections together. ;D But yessss, read it, read it! I myself received the book last Christmas. Took ME long enough to get to it as well!

      LOL, the girl from down south doesn't like Westerns! ;) I don't outright hate them, but they just don't grab my attention, generally. So I was very pleased that The Man on the Buckskin Horse turned out as enjoyable as it did! I think you'd like Emma's humor.

      It's so lovely! It took me a bit to get used to the writing style, I think, but it's got an ancient, dusty element to it that makes it fascinatingly exotic. (Plus there's the humor there too! NERIYA IS THE BEST, THOUGH. WAIT TILL YOU MEET HIM.)

      CRAZY CHARACTERS FOREVERRRRRR. <3333 I don't know WHY we love them so much! I guess I'm just intrigued by how unpredictable they are--whether that comes out in unexpected humor or unexpected chills--and they're just so memorable. Eccentric characters like Wizard Fenworth... sweet/crazy ones like Winter (love her!)...even just the somewhat unusual ones like the dragon Abaddon in Oracles of Fire (all that alliteration!). Just--SO MUCH LOVE.
      But yes, this story was still verrrry epic and fun and hilarious! I think it's JUST your type of tale!

      Yep, same here! DRAGONNNN.

      Yeah, hard sci-fi is not really my thing either. I get lost with the techie stuff. (And don't even get me to try WRITING hard sci-fi. Research. Meep.) But the softer side, like the books you mentioned, are such fun! Out of the Tomb was---gah, heartwrenching and beautiful and amusing and fascinating. All the things I love!

      So glad you enjoyed the review! I can't wait to hear YOUR thoughts on it once you read it! :D

  6. YAY so glad you liked it!

    That's funny that you thought Palmer was older than he actually was. I felt the same way about Emma, actually. I thought she was like grandma age, so... Whoops. XD

    I loved all the strange creatures in Guardian of our Beauty too! It makes me want to write a story with creatures like that...


    Haha, yes, Lona was wonderful. XD Gotta love those slightly mad characters, right? :D

    Ack, Auren trying to just be a person in the modern era. I loves it. XD And yes! I totally agree, it had a Lunar Chronicles feel to it! :)

    Ah, it was just so good! Now I can't wait for Five Poisoned Apples. ^_^

    1. Wasn't it wonderful? :D

      Haha, I do remember noticing that Emma was thinking about approaching fifty, so I pegged her in her forties. But because she kept noticing Palmer's good looks, I thought HE was in his forties too! And then--well, no spoilers for other readers here, but the ending made me realize Palmer's probably in his twenties. Whoops indeed. XD

      Right? I especially liked the sea creature...I forget what it's called, but it seemed so mysteriously majestic.


      I allllways go for the slightly mad ones! Don't know why. *shakes head*

      Haha, Auren made me grin so many times. He was majorly behind the times, but it made him even more lovable! :D

      Yes, this just makes me MORE excited for FPA!

  7. Aaaaaah you're making me want to read it again! I'm so glad you liked it. :D
    Funny how similar our opinions were on all the stories! I thought this collection was going to be strange when they first announced the genres, but once I read it, it became my favorite one, yet.

    Okay, I have to share because it was fun to do. I actually drew Lolly the fairy chicken when I first read "The Ghost of Briardale." Here she is: XD Were that I were a better/more consistent artist and could draw things for the rest of the stories, too, but at least I managed a fairly decent chicken. ;)

    1. It's making ME want to reread the first two collections! :D

      Same! I wasn't sure what to think when they announced the winning stories, but I had no reason to be doubtful at all. They're fantastic, and they complement each other really well.

      Ahhhhh, you drew Lolly! That is fantastic! LOL, she was so clear in my mind, and you really captured her likeness. :)

  8. These sound really great! I must admit, I'm still getting into the whole fairy tale retelling thing (I didn't grow up with many fairy tales), but I'm learning to love them! I might have to check these out at some point.

    1. No one's ever too late to get to know and love fairy tales! :) Yes, definitely check this book out! It has something in it for everyone, I think.

  9. Ooh, you're making me want to read this. I haven't really read many fairy tale readings, but after Cinder, I'm much more open to the idea. Plus, I'd love to read more Beauty and the Beast retellings since that's been my favorite fairytale. I'll have to read your review on that.

    I usually overlook book reviews on blogs, but I like yours, and I have more faith in your recommendations than others since you did recommend Cinder to me :)

    1. Yes, mission accomplished! XD Oooh, Five Enchanted Roses was a beautiful collection (oops, no pun intended) of Beauty and the Beast stories. Highly recommend.

      Awww, Meaghan! That's really sweet. I'm glad you enjoyed Cinder so much!

  10. Great review - now I want to read all of Rooglewood's books ;p

    1. Definitely read them all! It's fun to have bite-sized stories to read. Aaaand Christmas as coming, so they might be good books to put on your list! ;)

  11. A dwarf who can't turn invisible? Is that a nod to the Prydain Chronicles?

    1. I have no idea! I've never read the Prydain Chronicles... a problem I need to rectify one of these days. :)

  12. The quotes though! xD All of these stories sound amazing. (And mention of the Sage/Mott dynamic sold it xD)
    - Jem Jones

    1. I know, I was so pleased there were spots of humor in all five stories! (Yassss, Sage and Mott! I adored the Ascendance trilogy.)