The tale of Sleeping Beauty is a widely-known fairytale about a beautiful princess cursed by a wicked sorceress and a kingdom held in thrall. Elizabeth Blackwell takes the traditional legend and toys with a more realistic situation in which the princess and her kingdom could have found themselves. A vindictive royal aunt and a deadly plague come into play in this fascinating retelling of a beloved story, and is told from a refreshing perspective.
Elise was born on an impoverished farm in a backwater village, but through good fortune and pure nerve her fate changes forever when she arrives in the royal palace and becomes first a chambermaid, and then the queen's personal lady's maid. This is her story, and through her eyes we witness the perilous time leading up to the momentous birth of Princess Rose and then the treacherous storm of hate and spite which would seek to devastate the entire kingdom. Contrary to Elise's own words at the very beginning of the book, the story of a simple royal attendant is riveting when set amidst such drama and intrigue!
At it's heart this story is a treat! However, certain weaknesses bring the overall delivery down. At the beginning there is a great deal of foreshadowing, but it quickly became too much. All of the "How could any of us have known's," and "If only I had foreseen's" clogged up the flow. Another problem was Elise's romance with Marcus. It was well-constructed up through their disagreement over his living at the palace, but the reunion years later can only be described as wishy-washy. There were also things that just didn't make any sense! How did Millicent actually manage to orchestrate her revenge and later recover from the pox, where did Dorian's affection for Elise come from, etc. Ultimately, though, it was the ending which really disappointed me. It was too easy, everything just clicked neatly together without any wrinkles. And then we got a slap-dash accounting of everyone's lives through their deaths in some quick paragraphs. It was bland and felt like a let-down after a story that had been extremely engrossing. All considered, this probably drops my rating to 3.5 stars.
Negatives aside, though, this is a wonderful retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Some reviewers are saying that it is similar to "Downton Abbey," and I would agree that fans of the show would enjoy this. I look forward to reading Blackwell's next work! Bravo!
Thank you to Anna from TheReadingRoom.com, NetGalley.com & Penguin Group Putnam for hooking me up with this great new title!