Spindle Fire is a beautiful Sleeping Beauty-inspired Young Adult fantasy by Lexa Hillyard. Soon after she was born, Aurora's ability to speak and her sense of touch were tithed by fairies in exchange for beauty and grace, while her half sister Isbe's sight was exchanged for Aurora's safety. When Isbe finds out that Aurora's council plan to send her to a convent on the eve of Aurora's marriage, she runs away from the castle, and when Aurora chases after her, she becomes lost in the forest, and stumbles upon an abandoned cottage with a beautiful golden spinning wheel inside.
Spindle Fire is deeply fairy tale inspired, beyond the obvious plot connections. The prose is absolutely magical, and the familiar dark fairy tale themes permeate every element of the story, with an added and significant feminist twist.
Obviously, there's the feminist angle in the idea that Aurora and Isbe lost important abilities in order for Aurora to become a better princess, where "better" means "better to look at." It's literal objectification, where Aurora is made better for others to appreciate, whether everyone who sees her falls in love with her, but she's unable to express herself or interact with the world. Her closest (and only) friend is her sister, Isbe, who is unable to see and appreciate these talents of her sister, and has her own way of communicating with her. Aurora acts as her eyes, making her the only person who ever acknowledges what her sister sees or thinks about the world.
The book is also about another set of sisters, twin fairies, Belcouer and Malfleur. According to legend, Malfleur killed her sister, and is now a much-feared evil threat to the kingdom. There's obviously a lot more to it than that as the story unfolds, but the similarities and contrasts between the two sets of sisters colors much of the novel, and I think will have a much bigger role in the sequel to come. I can get too literal-minded sometimes, so since finishing this book, I haven't been able to stop thinking about which sister matches which, dwelling on the similarities between their stories, and what they might mean for Aurora and Isbe in the future.
Part of me wishes that this wasn't a duology, so there wouldn't be a year-long wait for the conclusion, but I loved the story's fairytale tone, and I think the tale would have lost some of its magic if it had been condensed into one volume.
If you love feminist fairytales, and are in the mood for a book that mixes a little action with a lot of enchantment, then I really recommend this one. Can't wait for the sequel!