Stand-alone // Middle-grade // Fairy-tale-esque
This book, you guys. Incredible. I can’t wait to go back and read K.A. Reynold’s first book and be a lifelong fan. You know I love dark middle grade, fairy tale books, and strange magic, and this book has all three.
My favorite book growing up was The Phantom Tollbooth and the whole feel of this is a lot like that – similar writing, that timeless quality, magic based on whimsy and cleverness.
Annalise is our main character, whose hand has been cursed, is blamed for every bad thing that happens in her tiny town. She knows of the Spinner of Dreams and the sinister Fate Spinner, god-like sisters cursed to be enemies and fighting against opposite forces for their whole lives.
The crowning achievement of this book is the Fairy-tale quality of the whole book. The writing is whimsical, while still dark, and the traveling between settings is dream-like in quality. I love the setting that the biggest chunk of this book is set in, and there are secrets around every corner.
And our main, character, Annalise, is one of the most genuinely courageous characters I’ve ever read. And I love that she is a middle-grade. She has severe anxiety, with panic attacks, and yet at every turn, she faces whatever is risky and terrifying with a grounded head on her shoulders and is willing to do what it takes for her to pursue her dreams and get out of the fate she was forced into.
Annalise is also beyond kind and extends empathy to even the creatures of the Fate Spinner who are sent to harry her on her journey.
Just like most middle-grade, I loved the animal side characters. Her mentor, a cat named Muse, and especially Mister Edwards, her guide through the maze, who is trying to save his husband with a dream to open a sweets shop. Mister Edwards, who we learn more and more about, works through opposing motivations throughout the book, having to choose between loyalties and fears throughout the process. He really represents what it looks like as life gets more and more complicated as you grow up, stuck between opposing things and having to choose between them, while having dreams.
As a reader, I also loved feeling empathy for our villain, the Fate Spinner. Finding out more about her really opens up her backstory and stands as the opposite of our main character. The Fate Spinner is stuck in her destiny and identity, while our main character, Annalise, is trying to escape it to gain freedom in her identity. We also see the Fate Spinner through Annalise’s eyes, who extends her heart to everyone, and helps to connect us as readers to her.
I absolutely teared up in the last chapter, and cried even harder reading the author’s note.
Thanks to K. A. Reynolds for her “own voices” novel that has the power to span age groups and connect us through courage and the ability to overcome our fates. This is one I’ll read to Knox year after year as he gets older.
Other September 2019 Reads:
These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling
The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi
The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
The Spinner of Dreams by K. A. Reynolds
Mind Games by Shana Silver
House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
The Babysitters Coven by Kate M. Williams
Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir