Friday, February 21, 2014

While Beauty Slept - Elizabeth Blackwell

While Beauty Slept Elizabeth Blackwell
While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Publication Date: February 20, 2014
Source/Format: Edelweiss || e-galley
[I received this book for review from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

A beautiful princess lies in a sleep so deep it is close to death. Was Sleeping Beauty revived by a prince's kiss? What really happened in that tower so long ago? 

While Beauty Slept re-imagines the legend through the lens of historical fiction, telling the story as if it really happened. A Gothic tale of suspense and ambition, love and loss, it interweaves the story of a royal family and the servants who see behind the glamorous facade, following the journey of a young woman as she lives out a destiny that leads her to the brink of death. (from Goodreads)
While Beauty Slept is an expertly woven retelling of Sleeping Beauty. It retains many elements from the tale we all know – a shunned woman, a coddled and overprotected princess, a kind guardian, a curse on a castle. But the reader is given a fresh perspective from which to observe these details, subtly insinuating that everything you know (especially if you’re like me, and your first knowledge of Sleeping Beauty was via the Disney film) might be a fanciful retelling of the truth – a truth that is finally acknowledged in While Beauty Slept.

While Beauty Slept follows Elise, a young lady with humble beginnings who eventually finds herself in a life of service to the king and queen. It is through her eyes that readers will witness triumph and tragedy that unfolds at the castle. Elise does have important experiences of her own, but her life is closely entwined with the king, queen and their daughter Rose, especially since she’s a favored servant and friend. The unexpected use of her perspective, as she is not the “Beauty”, nor part of the royal family, is key in helping readers piece together the facts from the beginning till the end. 

What’s best about While Beauty Slept, however, lies in the story. The author combines the story of Elise’s life as a royal attendant and the original elements of Sleeping Beauty so well. It’s a tale of the divide between upstairs and downstairs, laced with fairytale feels and pieces of history – and it’s irresistible. With each page, the reader is further drawn into the court’s political intrigues, a family torn asunder, romance and danger. Blackwell builds the story, carefully placing her well-crafted characters in it, and the result is the reader’s inability to do anything but continue reading immediately after finishing a chapter.

In spite of my overall positive reaction, there are a few things about While Beauty Slept that might be off-putting. First, there was the foreshadowing of the evil to come, which happened repeatedly in the first half of the novel. While it normally wouldn’t have bothered me, it was a little too much to constantly encounter it. Second, apart from Elise, the other characters felt a little underdeveloped, even with their histories and motives slowly revealed. Since this is inspired by a fairy tale, it didn’t douse my personal feelings for While Beauty Slept, but it might do that for other readers.

Even with my minor reservations, While Beauty Slept swept me up completely. It was the first reading experience I’ve had in a while where I felt like I was being carried along by the story’s current, unaware of what might happen next or which character it would happen to. So, it should come as no surprise that I would highly recommend While Beauty Slept!

7 comments:

  1. I love a retelling or any story with elements of the classic fairytales. Thanks!

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  2. I just got this one from NetGalley the other day, so I was excited to hear what you had to say about it. I haven't started it yet, but it is high on my "to read" list. I'm really happy that you enjoyed this one so much! And I'm glad for the heads up on the heavy foreshadowing. I'll be interested to see how that plays out. Can't wait to read this one!

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  3. While Beauty Swept sounds really good, like the type of book that I would really be into. I love fairy tale retellings, especially when they are creative and the whole historical fiction aspect sounds super creative.

    Also, I love that you mention the Disney movie, I always used to be scared of Maleficent, even though she's kind of the best.

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  4. I love fairytale retellings! One of the best I've read is Tanith Lee's White as Snow, a retelling of Snow White. I haven't read a really good retelling of Sleeping Beauty yet and I haven't had luck finding this book so far, but your review makes me want to redouble my efforts!

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  5. I just wrote my review for this the other day! While I was reading it I was LOVING it and then looking back I can't help but think, "but WHY?!" I honestly can't put my finger on what kept me reading so much! I was also kind of put off by the "villain" of the novel and her sister...they seemed underdeveloped as you said for people who held such weight in the story. The romances were awkward for me, too. I think that had certain things been more developed - like the queen and villain's relationship or what happened ON THAT DAY *wink wink* it would have been AMAZING. I did like it though! Great review, you nailed my feelings exactly!

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  6. I want to haaaave it. I want to read it. I want to love it :D Being such a fairytale lover, there isn't much you can do wrong with retellings. I love the sound of 'pieces of history' and political intrigues :D

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