While Beauty Slept

February 22, 2014 Fantasy, Fiction, Gothic, Historical Fiction, Re-telling 23

18079665Title: While Beauty Slept
Author: Elizabeth Blackwell
Source: from publisher for review
Rating: ★★★★★
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!


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23 Responses to “While Beauty Slept”

    • DoingDewey

      I’m glad you enjoyed it too 🙂 You’re completely right about the isnta-love! Perhaps it didn’t bother me because it was a fairytale? I’m not sure, but whatever the reason, I didn’t even notice that while I was reading.

    • DoingDewey

      I hope you pick it up and love it as much as I did! The writing was definitely the highlight of this book for me. It was just so beautiful!

  1. Charlie

    I think I read in another review the same sentiment about the writing. The prose sounds wonderful. The more I read about this the more I want to read it, and I like what you’ve said about it being darker, there is often so much to think about there and it is fitting when you think about it.

    • DoingDewey

      It was so beautiful! There was a quote on the back that made me excited to pick this up because I expected the writing to be fantastic and I wasn’t disappointed! I think making a fairytale darker can often be a good way to go. It’s a nice return to the pre-disney version of many fairytales and it’s a great way to make the story more suited for adults 🙂

  2. Amanda @ Off The Book

    I love Elizabeth Blackwell, and I LOVE fairy tale retellings. Have to check this one out.

    • DoingDewey

      I’ve haven’t read anything else by Blackwell, but this book was so beautiful, I’d love to read more! I thought this was an incredibly well done retelling 🙂

  3. Kelly

    The best thing an author can do, for me, is write something so beautiful or striking that I have to read it aloud. I love being forced to take a moment to acknowledge the power of a string of words, when properly placed.

    I also really love when fairytales are retold in slightly darker tones, and it sounds like While Beauty Slept is no exception!

    • DoingDewey

      I agree! I think wanting to read something out loud and savor the words is some of the highest praise I can give an author. If you like slightly darker versions of traditional fairy tales, this is definitely a book you should pick up! I thought it was done incredibly well 🙂

  4. Christina

    I actually have this book checked out from the library right now! 🙂 So I’m very happy to see your 5-star review…here’s hoping I’ll like it just as much!

  5. Christine @Buckling Bookshelves

    I was waiting to comment on this post until I finished the book, and can now say I ended up loving it too! I think you put your thoughts together quite a lot better than I did though LOL — I actually linked to this review because I really liked the way you described it 🙂 If you’ve read any other re-tellings, I’d love some recommendations — I’m a total newbie at this particular sub-genre!

    • DoingDewey

      Oh, yay! I’m glad you enjoyed this too! I often read reviews of books I really loved and feel that they’ve expressed my feelings more eloquently than I did myself. Sometimes it’s just so hard to put into words what makes a book special. Sadly, I haven’t read any other adult fairy tale retellings, but I do have a few YA books I’d recommend.

      I thought Thorn by Intisar Khanani was at the older end of YA because it kept and maybe even amplified the darkness of the original Goose Girl and it was very well done. It’s also an indie book and it always makes me happy to find an awesome indie author 🙂 I also really enjoyed Cinder, which I’m sure you’ve heard all about if you read YA blogs at all. I thought the hype was deserved! If you’re interested in classic re-tellings, a few I’ve reviewed and liked include Edward Maret (The Count of Monte Cristo) and Joanne Trollope’s Sense and Sensibility. And here ends my overly long comment! I hope you’re able to find some more re-tellings that you like 🙂

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