Author: Rhiannon Thomas
Length: 352 pages
Rhiannon Thomas's dazzling debut novel is a spellbinding reimagining ofSleeping Beauty and what happens after happily ever after.
One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.
Her family is long dead. Her "true love" is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.
As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.
Rhiannon Thomas weaves together vivid scenes of action, romance, and gorgeous gowns to reveal a richly imagined world … and Sleeping Beauty as she’s never been seen before.
Protagonist: From the moment Aurora is awoken from her cursed sleep she is treated almost like a trophy or prize by the king and queen who now rule her kingdom. While the people love her due to the rumors and legends about her passed down through the hundred years she's been asleep, she doesn't have any real power to change the state of her kingdom. While I liked Aurora just fine, I felt like she needed to be a stronger heroine, and while she does have the character development to get her to that point, if not quite in this installment than in previous installments, I really wanted her to take back her kingdom from the moment she found out what's really going on.
Romance: In this story Aurora actually has three different love interests. First off there's Rodric, the prince who awakens Aurora from her sleep and her "destined" true love. He's a nice guy and really wants to do right, not only by her but, for his kingdom. While I actually really like Rodric, he's not really my first choice for who Aurora ends up with, if she'll end up with anyone, mostly due to the fact that Aurora only sees him as a great friend and nothing more. Then there's Tristan, a boy from the city outside her castle who she meets one night after sneaking out. At first I really liked Tristan, he was the only character to really treat Aurora, or as he called her, Mouse, since she was in "disguise," like an actual human being, someone with hopes and dreams not tied to or defined by the breaking of a curse. Though things happen, I won't say what that change my opinion of him and leaves Aurora unsure of how she sees him. Then there's Finnegan, the prince from a far off and apparently dragon infested kingdom. Finnegan is confident, cocky, and charming. He's definitely a character and love interest trope I've seen before, but he's also incredibly honest even saying things that, well, may turn Aurora against him. By the end of the novel, I'm probably rooting for him the most, but even then, I might be happier if Aurora doesn't take a love interest.
World-Building: Going into this I was expecting a fairy-tale retelling. I'm not sure why though, other than that it's about Sleeping Beauty, since it's technically about after the original tale ends. There were many times over the course of the book that I forgot about Aurora being Sleeping Beauty, as the story reads so much more like a fantasy novel than a fairy-tale retelling. That's not to say that the sleeping curse is all but omitted from the beginning, in fact it's that very curse that makes Aurora loved by her people, forces her into an engagement with Rodric, and left her without anyone she's ever known in a kingdom that seems like only a shadow of her own. However, the charm and feeling of a fairy-tale retelling was lost to me on this one, and while I love a good fantasy, and this was a pretty amazing one, it wasn't quite what I expected.
Predictability: For the most part the foreshadowing in this book is spot on, and not necessarily in the good way. There was so much of it that it was rare that I was surprised by anything and when I was it was only because there was no foreshadowing for it and it came so out of the blue that there was nothing to do but be shocked. I wish there were more breadcrumbs, so to speak, to really get a good "aha!" moment when these twists go down. There were a few things that I felt were heavily foreshadowed that never came to pass, however it will be interesting to see if they are revealed in future installments.
Ending: The ending was pretty epic, I must say. When I first started reading this book I thought that it was a stand-alone, so I was confused as to why things, like what happens at the end, weren't coming faster, however I quickly double-checked and found out that there is going to be at least one more installment according to Goodreads and my fears melted away. The end is for the most part a large cliffhanger. The final two chapters go by so fast but they really start to set up something that I'm practically dying to see, even though I'll probably have to wait another year or so to find out.
So while this book is incredible, I was extremely frustrated with how almost everyone treated Aurora, like she wasn't the rightful heir to her own kingdom or that they aren't false royalty, but like she was just an object to display to the people to cement their own power. I wished that Aurora took action a bit quicker and I also wish the foreshadowing was a it more subtle in a few places, and actually there in others, and finally I wish this felt more like a fairy tale retelling, though again it does work great as a nearly pure fantasy.