This book is a twisted version of Sleeping Beauty, picking up where the fairy tale ends.
April 21, 2015
Most people are familiar with the story of Sleeping Beauty: An evil fairy curses a young princess to prick her finger on a magic spindle. The princess falls asleep until she is woken by true love’s kiss.
Prince and princess live happily ever after… right? Waking Beauty adds a little more to the perfect ending, spinning a thread of realism through this well-known story. It opens with the prince about to wake the beauty, but happily-ever-after may still be a long time coming. Is a kiss enough to wake a princess who has slept for one-hundred years?
Waking Beauty is published by Enclave, a company known for its quality Christian Speculative Fiction. As such, you can expect a moralistic story written from a Christ-like worldview. Though love, friendship, and even sanity are threatened, noble traits — like courage, loyalty, and faith — are revered.
Like most fairy tales, Sleeping Beauty is a love story at the core. On the other hand, Waking Beauty is an adventure — full of action and danger — but the theme of true love is woven throughout the book. Heroic Prince Arpien must repeatedly prove his love for sleepy Princess Brierly. Various circumstances push Arpien beyond a shallow affection toward a more real — even Biblical — truer kind of love. Other characters also embody beautiful examples of unconditional love, exhibited in sacrifice and friendship.
A prophecy claims that Brierly can bring the legendary Prince of Here and There, who will restore life and defeat evil, back to her kingdom. This Prince strongly resembles Jesus.
Magic plays a role in the story. The fairies, both good and evil, exhibit their powers. The good fairies are aligned with the Prince of Here and There and could be compared to angels.
Brierly has many “Gifts,” which were given to her by the good fairies at her christening. Among other things, she can speak to animals, hear over impossible distances, and sew with extraordinary speed and talent.
Arpien’s powerful sword acts as if it has a mind of its own. The sword comes from the Prince of Here and There, so its power is attributed to him.
In her dreams, Brierly possesses mystical powers, which she uses for her own enjoyment and to ward off evil. She has achieved a form of lucid dreaming, which allows her to control almost every aspect of her dreams.
Arpien is nearly assassinated multiple times. In her dreams, Brierly recalls being tied to a rock by mermaids and left in agony for fifty-one days. A creature screams as it is eaten from the inside out; the process is not shown, only spoken of, but the screams are heard.
Several characters are killed. People are crushed, gored, eaten, and dropped from a height.
Likewise, the characters face various injuries. Thorns and spindles draw blood and even impale. One frightening character is covered in bloody gouges and wears a blood-caked cloak. Brierly plunges a knife into a man’s leg. Arpien is bitten by a monster. A battle leaves many wounded.
One of the characters is insulted with a made-up name. The word itself is not rude, but the intention behind the name is demeaning.
Of course, there is a kiss or two. They are short lived and mild.
Arpien notices Brierly’s physical features (form, hair, lips, etc.), but does not elaborate with much detail.
To Arpien’s embarrassment, he stumbles into a couple of suggestive conversations and misunderstandings regarding Brierly. The suggestive comments originate from other characters, not Arpien.
Wine is the staple drink, but our heroes and heroines never become drunk. At least two cups of wine are drugged with sleeping powder. Brierly’s obsession with spindles could be likened to any addiction.
Other Negative Content
Brierly has a wounded personality, which makes her a little hard to like. She intentionally does things to annoy. However, this is part of what she must learn to overcome.
Though Waking Beauty was inspired by a fairy tale, it is geared to a more mature audience. Parents and young people be warned: this is not a children’s book.
Brierly is far from your typical maiden-in-distress. She is clever, sassy, and extremely stubborn. Haunted by the pain of her past and fear of the future, Brierly is driven to desperate acts which unintentionally hurt her friends. On the flip side, Arpien’s character compliments Brierly’s. Though personal pride is his main motivator, Arpien is also courageous to a fault. He is easily frustrated and flustered, but extremely loyal.
Though Arpien kisses Brierly and breaks the spell of sleep, a deeper enchantment covers her. Arpien must discover what is wrong with his princess. Is she insane? Or does she just refuse to believe that she is, at long last, awake?
The world changed a lot during Brierly’s one-hundred-year nap. Her kingdom is now threatened by her own kinsmen, by other nations, and by the evil fairy. Most threatening of all is the attitude of indifference that Brierly has for everything around her.
With danger on all sides, Brierly and Arpien find balance in Nissa, a kind and steady young woman who quickly becomes a trusted friend. These three characters form the core cast of the book. Together, they guard against the treacherous conspiracies surrounding Brierly.
In certain places, the plot seems to drag a little, especially when the story switches between the characters’ points of view. Though the characters themselves are interesting, the frequent switching can be redundant. It’s never completely dull, however, because even the slower scenes build tension up to the climax.
The action scenes are really fun, with many feats of derring-do. Arpien has many opportunities to use his sword to defend himself and his friends. Brierly is constantly in a battle of the mind, both in her dreams and out. Though the stakes are mortally high, humor and romance are mixed in — reminders that this story is founded on a lighthearted fairy tale.
Fans of both the Brothers Grimm and the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty alike will find hidden references in Waking Beauty. The story sticks to its roots while blossoming into a new adventure.
Despite the magic and fairies, Waking Beauty feels very real. The characters deal with identifiable issues, the setting is more medieval than Disney, and the themes parallel the Gospel skillfully.
Nissa tells Brierly, “There’s truth buried in fiction.” That’s very true, especially for this book. The story explores many real-life questions and struggles, such as: What does true love look like? How should beauty and value be defined? Can we be held captive by ourselves, and what will it take to rescue us?
Waking Beauty is more than just a repeat. It is original, witty, and insightful — everything a twisted fairy tale should be.
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+ Stays true to the fairy tale while delivering original concepts
+ Interesting and realistic characters
+ Romance compliments the action without overpowering
+ Utilizes moralistic themes
+ Good humor
- A few editing mistakes
- Might be too long for some readers
- Different viewpoints are sometimes redundant