Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 12 hours and 52 minutes (432 pages)
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Release Date: February 20th, 2014
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: Audiobook from Audible.com
Rating: 4/5 stars
This was a very well done fairy tale retelling that is done as historical fiction with no magic. This was really well written and I enjoyed it a lot.
I listened to this on audiobook the audiobook was read by a narrator with a heavy and rich English accent which worked very well for this story. It was a great listening experience.
The book starts with our main character, Elise Dalriss, recounting the true tale of Sleeping Beauty to her great granddaughter. Elise was raised on a poor farm and when her family was decimated by the pox, she left and went to the castle to seek a position there. Through a series of coincidences she finds herself as the Queen’s Handmaiden shortly after arriving and the object of scorn of many other castle servants because of her quick rise in rank. However the Queen’s life has been plagued by sadness, the Queen is barren and would do anything to give the King of heir. Elisa finds herself the Queen’s closest confidant and witness to the hopes and devastations of a kingdom.
More than anything this book is a historical fiction. Although it is occasionally hinted at that the two elder sisters, Maleficent and Flora, might have beyond human powers that is mostly seen as superstition of the servants. There are no magic faeries or bitter curses here, just a bitter scheming old woman and the horribly contagious disease of the pox.
Elise is an interesting character. She is ambitious, although she doesn’t realize her drive until later in the story, and loyal to a fault. She time and time again chooses her duty to the Queen over her own happiness. It was interesting to read about a level-headed character that always chooses duty over her own needs. Elise’s survival of the pox at a young age also makes her resistant to the disease which puts her in an interesting position.
Elise does not have a wide circle of companions. She has an aunt in the city she converses with and eventually meets a young cobbler’s apprentice that she is drawn to. But her main duty is the Queen, and Elise spends all her time by the Queen’s side.
The story takes place over a number of years. We read about Elise as a child and about her early years in the castle. We also read about Elise in her upper 20’s when she finally marries and again in her 30’s. The beautiful thing about this story is how it shows the changes that can befall a person’s life so swiftly and how little control you have over certain things. I was also struck by how isolated the ladies in waiting are at times. They do not know anything about the world beyond the castle walls and are mostly content to just do their day to day duties.
The book does a good job of retelling Sleeping Beauty without magic in a way that is historically probable and could have actually happened. Beauty, the Queen’s daughter, actually isn’t the focus of most of the book. Her isolation in a tower is not at all what you are expecting, but it makes sense. This story shows how much more could be involved in a story like Sleeping Beauty and looks at an origin for that fairy tale that sounds surprisingly plausible.
There are a couple of points where the story gets a bit slow. However, for the most part it was engaging and well paced. The writing is very beautiful and I was able to easily imagine the characters and surroundings.
Overall I really enjoyed this historical fiction retelling of Sleeping Beauty. This retelling is enchanting and incredibly engaging, I really loved how a plausible and realistic historical story retells this famous fairy tale. Highly recommended to those who love historical fiction and/or fairy tale retellings.