I got The Sleeper and the Spindle out weeks ago from the library. I thought it was a graphic novel, but when I opened it to read, it actually is an illustrated prose story. So I put it aside because I wasn't in the mood for prose at the time (even Neil Gaiman's prose), and finally decided to read it tonight.
I knew The Sleeper and the Spindle was a Sleeping Beauty story. But I wasn't prepared for how Gaiman masterfully combined both Sleeping Beauty and Snow White (but looking back on it, it's a really obvious combination!)
The Sleeper and the Spindle starts with three dwarves travelling to the kingdom on the other side of an impassable mountain. There a group of people desperately asks for their aid in getting out of the kingdom because a plague of sleep is spreading. The sleep overtakes the people, but because the dwarves are magical they are immune. They return to their Queen to tell her what is happening.
The Queen herself had once spent an entire year sleeping due to magic. She and the dwarves agree that of all the bigger people, she has the best chance of also being immune. So she cancels her immanent wedding and goes with the dwarves to stop the plague.
The four of them journey to the other land and to the castle that is at the heart of the sleeping spell. There they find an old woman who remains awake in the castle and a beautiful young girl asleep. The Queen wakes the young girl with a kiss, only to discover the girl is the same kind of creature that the Queen's step mother had been. The girl stole the old woman's beauty, youth, and sleep years ago; the old woman was the young princess who had supposedly been sentenced to death when an evil fairy creature was slighted at her birthing ceremony seventy years ago. It was a fantastic twist to the Sleeping Beauty story that only Gaiman could have come up with (even though, like the combination of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, it's surprisingly obvious).
Chris Riddell's art suits Gaiman's prose beautifully. This is one book I would love to add to my own collection one day!!!