The Sleeper and the Spindle is a gorgeous book: the illustrations are all in black and gold, and there are some really beautiful pages. Riddell was just the right illustrator to bring the story to life, I think. The copy I have is really great: the dust cover is transparent, with the pattern of roses on it; the cover of the book itself is the sleeping woman.
If you know Neil Gaiman’s work, the rest of this is perhaps not surprising. It takes both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, and puts them in a unified world that is a little darker, a little different, a little more mature than the sanitised stories we see so much of now. This ain’t Disney. It’s still a fairytale, but it’s something different, too — something a little bit creepy, even.
The LGBT representation that I have seen this book being lauded for is… not exactly. There’s one kiss which appears to be so if you see the illustration on its own — and it’s a gorgeous illustration — but it doesn’t mean what it seems to mean, in context. Which is a little bit of a cop-out, really, since there’s excitement around this book on the back of it.
But really, romance isn’t at the heart of this fairytale. A search for autonomy is really what’s going on; a shrugging away from the familiar fairytale ‘happy ever after’.