‘The Bone Spindle’ by Leslie Vedder: The genderbent Sleeping Beauty of your dreams

Our Bone Spindle book review explores Leslie Vedder’s novel about a girl on a collision course with destiny.

The very premise of The Bone Spindle was enough for me to read this book: Sleeping Beauty meets Indiana Jones. Even better, it’s a genderbent retelling of the classic fairy tale with the added bonus of a queer love story. Really, what more could you ask for?

There was not a single page of this book that disappointed me. Even when I had no idea where the story was going, I was happy to be along for the ride. With earnest and relatable characters, heart-stopping action, and sweet romantic overtones, it had a little bit of everything I wanted—and a whole lot more.

Fi is the hero of our tale, and she’s exactly what I wish I could be. She’s got a thirst for adventure, and even better than that—she’s really good at it. She’s one of the best relic hunters in the land, and you could certainly do worse than having her as a partner.

Not only is she whip-smart, but she’s also capable of taking care of herself. Sure, it helps to have someone watching your back, but the way Fi’s mind can solve puzzles that others would only dream of encountering is truly the stuff of legends.

But even she can’t go it alone all the time, and that’s where Shane comes in. The only thing that rivals Shane’s legendary personality is the deftness with which she can swing her axe. Seriously, if you thought Fi was cool, then you’ll definitely have a fondness for the huntsman’s antics.

These two might be on opposite ends of the spectrum—Fi thirsts for knowledge, while Shane thirsts for coin—but they have more in common than you might expect. There’s a kindness in both of them that’s often hidden by the hardness of their exterior shell, but that makes it even better when they learn how to get under each other’s skin in the best possible way.

As usual with the books I decide to review, I knew little going into this one other than the fact that there would be a queer romance and a really solid platonic relationship. I’ll admit that in the beginning, I was rooting for Fi and Shane. How could I not? It was the perfect setup for an enemies (or, rather, begrudgingly respectful colleagues) to lovers romance.

Then in walks Briar Rose, the prince of Andar. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Briar at first—too pretty and too charming and too perfect, and yet he won me over just like he won over the stubborn and independent Fi. (Truthfully, it took a lot less time for him to capture my heart.)

bone spindle book review

I love genderbent stories, not least because they often put women in the driver’s seat where they’d once been passengers. Fi is the action hero we all deserve, only made stronger by the friendship that develops between her and Shane. There’s no doubt in my mind that these two women could save the world.

What surprised me most was Briar, who ended up being a three-dimensional character in his own right. He didn’t simply fill Sleeping Beauty’s shoes so Fi could take over the prince’s role as savior of the kingdom, but rather he had his own part to play and his own power to discover.

It would’ve been easy for the author to swap the characters’ genders and simply allow Fi to save Briar and be the hero. Instead, Vedder bestows upon him an agency that the original Briar Rose was never offered in her tale. And there’s something truly magical about that.

Throughout the book, this trio drives each other crazy as often as they save each other’s lives, and by the end of the book, their dynamic feels unshakable, even as the world is falling apart around them. There’s a loyalty there that’s been earned by putting in the work. A trust that has been forged in the heat of battle. It’s spectacular to witness.

But what about the queer romance, you may be asking. You didn’t think I’d go this whole Bone Spindle book review without bringing it up, did you? A girl named Red catches Shane’s eye, and whatever I was hoping to see between Fi and Shane quickly disappeared as soon as this vixen of a thief entered the picture.

Red is stunningly beautiful and wildly intelligent. She’s fierce and funny and a little dangerous. But whatever bravado she puts on is a front, because underneath it all, she’s damaged goods.

It’s not hard to see why Shane is immediately smitten, nor why she has a driving need to heal the wounds Red is hiding. That’s easier said than done, of course, and their charged interactions left me wanting more.

As the story surges forward, we learn about the kingdom’s history and the system of magic that rules it. There are as many edge-of-your-seat action-packed moments as there are quiet exchanges between tenuous allies under the moonlit sky. This world feels bigger than this story alone, and I can’t wait to explore more of it.

Because it’s not just that The Bone Spindle takes the story of Sleepy Beauty and turns it on its head. The author also manages to expand it into something wholly unique, at once paying homage to the story of Briar Rose while opening the world up to even more possibilities than we could ever imagine.

On a final note for this Bone Spindle book review, I wanted to mention that I’m not sure I’ve ever been happier to realize this was not a standalone novel. While I would’ve been content to close the door on a happy ending, I’m excited there will be more—more Fi and Shane and Briar and Red, more magic and monsters, more action and adventure, and certainly more tender moments between people learning to trust and love after being burnt before.

‘The Bone Spindle’ hit store shelves on January 11, 2022

Buy The Bone Spindle by Leslie Vedder from Penguin Random House, Bookshop.org, Book Depository, or Amazon. You can also add it to your Goodreads list.

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