Spinners by Donna Jo Napoli

RATING:★★★★ (4/5)

Napoli is a master of reinventing classic fairy tales, creating wonderfully complex characters that move through twisting dark psychological themes that hearken back to the original moralistic tales. She doesn’t shy away from the implications of sex and violence, unlike many of the glossy retellings popular– don’t expect magically perfect happy endings.

I’m glad I finally got around to reading another one of her titles. I’ve been haunted by vague memories of reading “Zel” when I was around twelve (because of the themes she addresses these YA books are probably best for readers closer to 14-16). I was in a serious fantasy-reading-phase and picked up “Zel” expecting a cool Rapunzel retelling, totally unprepared for the emotional tale fraught with intense and sinister plotlines. I was simultaneously intrigued and put off by the bleakly honest portrayal of Zel’s continual dilemmas. I’m glad I gave Napoli another chance in adulthood.

“Spinners” is an equally honest and convincing examination of characters. In short, direct prose she and co-author Tchen weave a hypnotic tale of how gradually, yet drastically, a person’s identity can change. What begins as an origin story of the infamous Rumplestiltskin expands into an intelligent exploration of love, betrayal, and myriad other involved emotions.

I withheld a star for a few small reasons (sometimes the romantic aspects seemed a little overdone and the ending felt a little abrupt) but overall I’d say it’s definitely deserving of a high place in the ranks of fairy-tale retellings.

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