3 out of 5 stars.
I am not sure if I will ever get tired of fairy tale rewrites.
Aurora has just been reawakened by a prince and is now expected to marry him and live happily ever after. Given the current state of the kingdom though, that is unlikely to happen. Ever since the death of her parents, Aurora’s kingdom has been in a state of upheaval, being bounced around from king to king. Aurora’s awakening and marriage will lend credibility to the current monarch’s family, but as his rule is cruel and tyrannical, she can’t in good conscience support him. The rebels in the kingdom appear no better though, willing to go to unfortunate ends to obtain their goal. Neighbouring kingdoms look upon Aurora as nothing but a political pawn, the King and Queen of her kingdom expect her to be completely biddable and the people expect her to be their salvation. Nowhere has anyone asked Aurora what she would like to do with her life. With true love with her prince not really being an option, Aurora now has to figure out the best way to save her people and herself.
I found Aurora, as a character, very passive. She is angry and frustrated at her treatment at the hands of just about everyone throughout the whole book, but she rarely does anything about it. No snappy comebacks, no political maneuvering, she doesn’t even do a very good job of ferreting out information. For all of her annoyance at merely being a pawn, she does very little to actually affect any kind of change for herself. She was a very boring character. I like it when my heroines try to do things, not just feel sorry for how their lives are going. If you are looking for a kick-ass, strong female lead, then this is not the book for you.
The premise was what really caught my attention. Most of the various stories of The Sleeping Beauty deal with before the curse and during. Once she has awakened, everything is assumed to be concluded and the story can end. This narrative really goes after the emotional turmoil of being awakened by a complete stranger and being told your family and friends are dead and you now have to marry this person. In the Disney version, and some others, the princess is lucky enough to meet the prince before she falls asleep, so him kissing her isn’t that creepy. This is closer to the original (though still sticking to the kiss and not the pregnancy) where it is a stranger after 100 years waking her up. She finds that weird and creepy and you really have to agree with her. In this story, the prince is a half-decent guy, but he is so under the thumb of his tyrannical father that he really can’t do anything to move the plot along. All he does is hope that when his dad dies he will be a better king. So now we have both the male and female leads not really doing anything.
The storyline is pulled forward by the inexorable march of time, not by character actions. Aurora does not really do much besides occasionally sneak out, Rodric (the Prince) does not do much besides act shy and occasionally visit Aurora. The King has no personality besides being evil and the Queen is mean, apparently having no sympathy for someone who has just been told her family is dead and her entire way of life is gone. Nobody really does much. Even the rebels only attack a couple of times. The author really seemed to be trying to run down the clock in parts of this book.
What saved this book for me is the premise, and the realistic portrayal of how disturbing and uncomfortable the aftermath of the original fairytale would be. A long awakened heir to a now defunct political dynasty would have some interesting aftermath. Her presence could be a blessing or a curse to the current rulers and it would be tricky to try and guess which beforehand. I just wish the story has more substance. The characters seemed to all be waiting for something to happen.