There are all kinds of different ways of retelling a fairy tale, from the almost slavish copying of each element (The Mermaid, by Carolyn Turgeon, is an example of that), to the versions that wander quite a distance from the original (see any of the stories in The Merry Spinster, by Mallory Ortberg, for examples of that, or the stories in Her Body and Other Parties, by Carmen Maria Machado). We have fairy tales transposed to the western genre (Six Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente), or turned into science fiction (The Snow Queen, by Joan Vinge, which won a Hugo and a Locus award). With Kiss of the Spindle, by Nancy Campbell Allen, we now have a steampunk version of Sleeping Beauty (and yes, obviously this new book qualifies as a fairy tale for adults if you’re doing the Reading Challenge this year).
Our heroine is Doctor Isla Cooper, an accomplished woman whose job is to hunt down shapeshifters who have gone bad and attacked human beings. She just has one little problem, a curse put on her by the witch, Malette, a year before, which causes her to fall into a deathlike sleep every night from midnight to six a.m. At the end of the year, she’s not going to be able to wake up at all from that sleep. She needs to find the witch and get her to undo the spell, and time is running out.
The fastest way to get to the witch is by airship, and when Isla isn’t able to buy a ticket on any of the commercial ships, she resorts to blackmailing Daniel Pickett to let her on his private airship. Once on the ship, she discovers that he’s transporting three illegal shapeshifters whom he is desperately trying to hide. But they’re not the only people on the ship:Nigel Crowe, a governmental official who wants to get rid of all shapeshifters and an old enemy of Isla’s is also traveling with them, and Daniel and Isla have to work hard to protect the shapeshifters from discovery as well as finding the witch and saving Isla from the curse. And of course (if you’re thinking about the original Sleeping Beauty and seeing Daniel in the role of the prince), Isla and Daniel find themselves attracted to each other as well.
If you want a different kind of adult fairy tale, or if you’re curious about the whole steampunk genre and want a good book to see what it’s like, check out Kiss of the Spindle.