You all know how much I love fairy tales. Indeed, it almost physically hurt me to assign Elizabeth Blackwell’s While Beauty Slept to another reviewer, but I just didn’t have time in my reading schedule to get to it. Now that I’ve read our review, I’m going to make time. Blackwell’s entry-point is a character of her own invention–a palace servant who is perfectly placed to view the action, and eventually comes to the center of it. “Dark twists and turns not found in Disney versions”? A “kingdom of intrigue and evil”? Sounds right up my alley. Beautiful cover too.
BLACKWELL, Elizabeth. While Beauty Slept. 424p.Putnam/Amy Einhorn Bks. Feb. 2014. $25.95. ISBN 9780399166235. LC 2013030337.
What more is there to know about “Sleeping Beauty” that hasn’t been covered exhaustively in popular culture? Blackwell adds another voice to the oeuvre with Elise Dalriss. The protagonist is a farm girl turned palace servant whose loyalty and discretion bring her into the service of Queen Lenore. She quickly becomes privy to the intimate secrets of the Queen and those around her, including Millicent, the twisted aunt of King Ranolf. Elise witnesses the long-awaited birth of Rose, an heir to the throne, followed quickly by the banishment of Millicent for her moves against the King. But the villainess does not go quietly. She curses Rose and the kingdom as she departs. As Elise transforms from a girl into a woman within the palace walls, she puts Rose at the center of her world, sacrificing her own desire for love in order to protect the royal family. The author vividly creates a kingdom of intrigue and evil as the backdrop for Rose’s and Elise’s stories to emerge. Teens will appreciate Elise’s longing for her passion and love and they will relish the drama and tension of living under a witch’s curse. Thanks to the upcoming Maleficent film and popular television shows such as Grimm and Once Upon a Time, this novel is a wonderful fit for readers with a renewed interest in fairy tales who also appreciate the dark twists and turns not found in Disney versions.—Meghan Cirrito, formerly of Queens Library, NY