While Beauty Slept
by Elizabeth Blackwell
Time for another fairy tale retelling! You know I love them. In While Beauty Slept, Blackwell tackles the story of Sleeping Beauty through a historical rather than magical lens. It’s told through the point of view of Elise, a farm girl whose family is decimated by the plague and so she goes to the castle to look for a new start. Eventually she becomes handmaiden to the queen, and so witnesses Rose’s birth, the power struggles with the king’s aunt Millicent, their dramatic clash, and the way fear can erode personal relationships as well as a kingdom. It’s an interesting read, and despite Elise being ‘only’ a maid, she has more of an influence on events than just as ‘witness.’ I also like that she has a life of her own going on (her own secrets and struggles and heartbreaks) instead of it only being about the royal family. Elise is the narrator, and the framework is such that she’s an old woman finally telling this long-kept story to her great-granddaughter. Which, at times is not a believable framework since the story does get graphic about violence, sickness and sex. Also, even though I liked the story and consider it a good read, the link between Elise’s story and how that supposedly morphed into the Sleeping Beauty we all know is still a pretty thin one. And I saw the end coming from a mile away, which is always a bit of an anticlimax. But overall, still a good historical fiction read with dashes of intrigue and romance! Give it a whirl.