While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books (Penguin)
Publication Date: 2014 (Available February 20th)
Pages: 424
Source: Copy provided by the publisher

The Short Version:
Historical Fiction treatment of the story of Sleeping Beauty as if it had happened but without any magic.

Why I Read It:
The first time I heard something about this book on Twitter, I was intrigued and knew I wanted to read it.

The Book:
From the inside cover flap:From the Publisher:

I am not the sort of person about whom stories are told.

And so begins Elise Dalriss’s story. When she hears her great-granddaughter recount a minstrel’s tale about a beautiful princess asleep in a tower, it pushes open a door to the past, a door Elise has long kept locked. For Elise was the companion to the real princess who slumbered—and she is the only one left who knows what actually happened so many years ago. Her story unveils a labyrinth where secrets connect to an inconceivable evil. As only Elise understands all too well, the truth is no fairy tale.

My Thoughts:
The publisher’s page for this book opens with “Historical fiction at its best — The Brothers Grimm meets The Thirteenth Tale” and I’d call that an accurate description.

The story of Sleeping Beauty is retold from the perspective of a farm girl who becomes a maid in the castle and sees how the events that will later become a legend and fairy tale play out. Elise had me hooked by page 2.

“The spell was broken. Sleeping Beauty awakened and around her the castle came to life once again. The king and queen wept with joy to be reunited with their daughter, and happiness was restored to the realm. The prince married the princess and they lived happily ever after.”

Ha! It would be a fine trick indeed to fell a royal daughter with a needle, then see her revived with a single kiss. If such magic exists, I have yet to witness it. The horror of what really happened has been lost, and no wonder. The truth is hardly a story for children.

This is much more a straight up historical fiction book than fantasy. In fact magic really plays no part in the events that Elise observes and experiences. I liked Elise as the narrator in this one. Her humble beginnings and early tragedies made her someone I could root for. Her introduction to life at court and descriptions of both the beautiful and ugly parts of life there for both servants and the upper classes was interesting. She’s bright and her relationship to the queen is quite touching. Her loyalty and strength are admirable. Elise drops many hints of danger and tragedy to come but for the most part tells the story as she saw and experienced it.

Blackwell beautifully weaves a tale of intrigue, love, jealousy, danger and hope. She manages to tell a familiar story in a way that makes it entirely new and fascinating. I highly recommend this one.

It’s a magical story despite the lack of actual magic.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5