Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher

I read The Shadow Spinner  by Susan Fletcher (Simon and Schuster - Aladdin) as part of my reading for Sirens; specifically, looking at retellings this year.  

The Shadow Spinner works backward from how you might expect: rather than retelling any of the more fantastic and magical tales from One Thousand and One Nights, this is about some unmagical people supporting the efforts of Scheherazade's frame story. This isn't about djinn or ghouls, but about a lot of other things, and perhaps most significantly, about the power of story. Stories, and their retellings, is a major theme woven through this book on many levels.

Marjan's mother abandoned her many years ago, around the same time that the sultan started murdering his wives. There's a complicated backstory about how this happened, including some abuse, fear, and pain. She goes to the sultan's harem with an "aunt" to sell jewelry, and while there, she tells some of the harem children a story. Scheherazade asks her to join the harem, because she's desperate--almost out of stories to tell, and she needs Marjan's story to spin out at least a few more nights of life for all of them. The problem is, Marjan doesn't know the whole thing, and they're going to have to smuggle her back out of the harem to put the pieces together. The sultan's mother is suspicious, Marjan's got a smashed foot that pains her, and they're all in danger--but only Marjan has the skills needed to keep Scheherazade safe.

I liked this a lot more than I thought I would. It's middle grade, and simple, but thoughtful.

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