Reading reviews in journals and on blogs alike, I have this exceedingly uncomfortable feeling that it is now de rigueur for Edgy Reviewers to declare Neil Gaiman passé.
Neil Gaiman is never, was never, and never shall be irrelevant.
I admit it: I'm a total fangirl. He hooked me with The Sandman and scared the buttons out of me with Coraline and charmed me to the moon and back with Stardust. The Ocean at the End of the Lane was one of my favorite reads of last year. I've yet to read his wonderfully dark-looking Hansel and Gretel, but I finished The Sleeper and the Spindle today and have again fallen under his spell. It's not just his, really: it's the spell of words. Certain authors weave magic with their words, and Gaiman is one of these wizards.
Many people seem to be equally interested in this because of Chris Riddell's illustrations, and now comes the time for me to make a bold statement: I do not love Chris Riddell's art. I like it. I appreciate it. But I do not love it--it's not my aesthetic. So, I wasn't exceedingly excited about the art here: I wanted the story. But I will say that Riddell's illustrations played with our conceptions of what fairy-tale people look like as much as Gaiman messed with how fairy tales are told.
Some might say that the story isn't very KAPOW! That's true, but it's not really about the story. It's about the telling and the why and the what if.
This is a really wonderful book to give to a tween or teen girl, because it's feminist as all get out. It's not about OMG PRINCES MAWWAGE TWWUUUE WUUUUV and thank goodness for that. I don't think Gaiman would have written that book anyway, and had he tried, I'd like to think that Amanda F***ing Palmer would have had something to say about that.
Read this at your local library, and then buy it for your home library. It's a lovely, hopeful book to have. I want to grow up and be like the Queen in this book ... someday. But I'd also need some dwarves, a horse, a suit of armor, and a sword. Anyone willing or able to procure those for me?