Spindle (A Thousand Nights, #2) by E.K. Johnston
Published by Disney-Hyperion on December 6, 2016
Genres: young adult, fantasy, mythology, retellings
Format: Paperback (ARC)
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After being impressed by E.K. Johnston’s rich world-building and prose in A Thousand Nights, I was looking forward to seeing her spin on Sleeping Beauty. A Thousand Nights was clever, if a bit unbalanced, and I was excited to see where Johnston would take us next.
Unfortunately, I find myself disappointed. Because this book was not as clever as I’d hoped it be.
Four words perfectly described my experience with this book, and they are these: too little, too late. I was waiting for something to develop: the world-building, the characters, the conflict. And, eventually, the story takes off, and I found myself finally getting invested. The only issue? That point for me was about fifty pages before the end of the book.
I’ll start with the characters first. Initially, I was overwhelmed with the number of characters here: we have our narrator, Yashaa; Saoud, the son of a foreign gaurd who is loyal to his friends, despite not being their kin by blood; Tariq, who knows the myths and stories of his people just as well as he knows his spindle; and Arwa, the youngest of their group and the “little sister” figure, but a girl who’s just as proactive and capable as the rest of them. Getting used to so many names and seeing so many different people through Yashaa’s eyes took me a while, but, when we got there, I found myself enjoying these characters. I only wish they’d have been developed further; right when we were going places, the climax hit.
Yashaa himself was a little frustrating, but I could understand why he was angry at the Little Rose for the curse placed upon his people, even if Yashaa’s anger was misplaced. He, too, seemed a capable character–angry and stubborn and determined–and overall I liked reading from his point of view. Yet, just like with the other characters, I wished I’d had more time with him so I could get to know him better. We got close to that point, but never quite close enough for him to fully come alive for me.
The world-building here was less rich than I’ve come to expect from Johnston. We have two kingdoms–Qamih and Karuf –the former of which is prospering while the latter is dying. Yashaa, Tariq, Arwa, and the Little Rose are all from Karuf, and the fate of their kingdom depends on the curse a demon lay upon the Little Rose at her birthday. Yet, despite hearing stories from other characters and from Yashaa’s childhood about the kindgom, we don’t see much of it. Most of this novel is spent wandering the deserts and forests. Which is fine, but after the vibrant world-building displayed in A Thousand Nights, I was hoping for more, richer, better. And I did not get that.
The most disappointing thing for me, however, was, by far, the plot. I remember thinking, once I was finally invested in the characters and the story, “There’s no way this can be resolved in 50 pages.” And there wasn’t. Or, this wasn’t resolved well, at least. The plot point the entire story has been building up to is resolved within five or so pages, and the whole thing felt haphazard, unclear, and anti-climactic. As a result, the ending left me confused and wanting more. How hard would it have been to add just ten more pages to wrap things up just a little more smoothly? I felt a little robbed, to be honest.
My final verdict: While this book is promising, it doesn’t fully deliver in its promises, and it doesn’t live up to the vibrancy of its predecessor. Spindle is lacking in several crucial ways, and the only things that made it an enjoyable read for me (the writing and the characters) were tarnished by the clipped, hurried ending. Tread lightly.
Many thanks to Alli and Taylor of A Bookish Alli for sending me this ARC, and thank you to HarperCollins and the author for supplying it. No compensation of any kind was exchanged for this review.