Friday, April 4, 2014

Sleeping Beauty by Jenni James

Genre: Fantasy, fairy tale retellings
Series: Part of a collection that will ultimately include 25 books. However, they don't seem to be connected and can be read alone or together.
Pages: 231
Rating: **
Queen Aleyna is the sole survivor of the fairy Villeria's massacre. She watched, helpless, as her family was slaughtered before her eyes. For the past thirty years she's been kept in an enchanted sleep by her faithful unicorn, Ezralon. The horrors of memory can't harm her as she roams her perfect dreamworld.
Prince Darien isn't one to back down from a dare. When his friends goad him into searching for the lost queen, he agrees only to save face. He didn't expect to fall in love.
When Aleyna wakens, they'll be forced to confront Villeria together. The fairy lost the princess once, and now, she won't let any sword or spell stop her from claiming her prize.
This book's main weakness is its length. Had it been a hundred pages longer, we could've gotten to know the main characters and develop the minor ones. Darien's three friends-George, Michael, and Humphrey-are virtually indistinguishable. Towards the beginning Humphrey's set apart from the others by his dialogue. He uses words like 'doth' in a few lines. However, these disappear as the story progresses, so maybe those lines were said in sarcasm. The other characters regularly toss around words like 'zing' and 'poof' that clash with the pre-industrial setting. Occasional typos also pull the reader out of the story.
Most of the Sleeping Beauty retellings I've seen have the bulk of the story take place after the heroine awakes. After all, you can't do much with a sleeping character. And since the story itself is short and uncomplicated, most writers find it necessary to go in a completely new direction to find a tale worth telling. James' creativity managed to find a way around both of these roadblocks. While Aleyna sleeps, her ghostlike spirit roams the halls of her ruined castle. This allows her to form a relationship with Darien instead of waking up to some creeper's kiss. Aleyna still sees her castle as it was with beautiful decorations and live servants. Meanwhile, Darien's stepping over bones and cobwebs. The story's told through shifting third person. The best scenes are the ones that contrast what she's seeing with what he knows.
For me, this wasn't a book I could sit down and devour from beginning to end. It's the book I pulled out to pass the time while waiting for my brother to finish up lacrosse practice. Not captivating, but certainly creative. Jenni James' retelling of Sleeping Beauty manages to twist the tale in new directions without losing the beauty of the original story.

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