Title: While Beauty Slept
Author: Elizabeth Blackwell
Source: from publisher for review
Summary: This was exactly what a grown-up fairy tale should be – dark, hauntingly beautiful, emotional, complex, but still with a fairy tale ending.
We all know the fairy tale story of sleeping beauty, but have you have ever wondered what that story would have looked like in real life? What would cause the king and queen to avoid inviting a powerful woman to their daughter’s baptism? Was the woman who cursed the princess really a fairy, a witch, or just a very bitter woman? And if not by magic, how was the princess cursed and then saved? Elise is able to tell a tale to answer all those questions from her time as a servant in the castle. She’ll also tell a tale of her own, including love she won and lost and the sacrifices her loyalty to the princess demanded.
This book was one of those books I immediately got so swept up in, I had a hard time making myself take notes. Elizabeth Blackwell has a masterful command of language. She used large words that I noticed not because they felt out of place but because they were always perfectly chosen. They lent her sentences a beauty that demanded to be read out loud. She brought the medieval setting to life with her vivid descriptions, from the struggles of the poor to the court intrigues of the nobility. Little thoughtful asides about human nature elevated this book to something truly out of the ordinary for me. Commentary on human nature is something I often love in classics, so seeing it in a contemporary novel was delightful and surprising.
Although you might describe this book as a darker version of sleeping beauty, I think it’s more accurate to say that it’s a sleeping beauty story for adults. This retelling makes the original story look like a sanitized version of the true story. There are deceptions and schemes behind the scenes that motivate the events of the original. There are some very low points in the story and Elise has to deal with some heartbreakingly difficult decisions. The end was more realistic than the original, but surprisingly happy and the happiness was all the more beautiful for the suffering and darkness the characters had to make it through first. The author kept me hooked throughout, dropping just enough hints about the coming events to make me desperately curious to read more. Basically, the writing, the plot, and the characters were all perfection. I simply couldn’t put this one down!