“Cursed” Annalise journeys through a labyrinth to reverse it.
A fairy tale–esque preface chronicles the birth of twin princesses in the Mazelands: the hated, pale-skinned Fate Spinner and the beloved, dark-skinned Spinner of Dreams. The story proper opens with the birth of Annalise Meriwether. Her “cursed” left hand, twice as large as her right, bears a broken black heart—the Fate Spinner’s mark—that occasionally shoots fire and is blamed for the town’s persistent miseries. Though her parents are incredibly loving and supportive, the townsfolk are abusive. Understandably traumatized, Annalise uses such mechanisms as counting to cope. Refreshingly, Annalise’s anxiety and coping strategies aren’t portrayed as obstacles or deficits. Hoping for “a normal left hand,” Annalise travels to the Mazelands to face the perils of the Fate Spinner’s labyrinth—and her misbeliefs about herself and her “wicked” hand. The plot itself is labyrinthine and its exploration of fate uneven. Moreover, the Fate Spinner’s evil comes across as simplistic, in contrast to the story’s other, more fully developed villains. The tiresome convention that equates dark with evil is turned on its head with the Spinner sisters’ skin colors, but most everything else, disappointingly, aligns with it. Annalise’s mother has brown skin, but Annalise herself is described only as having straight black hair and purple eyes. Mental health resources are provided in the backmatter.
An interesting if imperfect story commendable for its portrayal of a protagonist suffering from anxiety and possibly PTSD. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 10-14)