My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I will admit it took a little bit to actually get into this one. I had no idea what to expect when I went into it. The entire story is told through letters the main character Charlotte is writing to a friend that she never actually plans to send. While this was different and unique, the language and lack of context early on made it difficult to get involved with the story.
I think after about a third of the way through the book however I actually started getting into the story and I grew fond of Charlotte.
I’m glad I stuck with it, but I that it might be a little too unique for some readers.
I feel it is worth noting that I have not read Pride and Prejudice so I cannot comment on it’s connections to this story.
Full Review with Spoilers
I went into this book with high expectations. A sapphic retelling of a classic fairytale is something I will always jump on. I was extremely happy to see that this book delivered and then some. The entire story is told from the perspective of Alyce, the traditional villain of Sleeping Beauty. The books acts as much like an origin story as much as it is a retelling.
Alyce is a fantastic character. She is told she is essentially evil and dark her whole life, that she is something other. It was heartbreaking to see how she deals with this her whole life and as much as she tries not to be that person, it definitely shaped who she is. She does what is essentially considered bad things because it is what is expected of her and what she is brought up to believe is the only thing she can do. Aurora is also a great main character. She is a princess and at first glance Alyce’s total opposite. The relationship that builds between them through the book is so well done. It was great to see them connect over their general dislike of everyone around them then it progress to Alyce trying to help her break the curse that will kill her when she turns 21. I loved seeing Alyce’s emotion progress and escalate even if she could quite see it for what it is.
There was a very interesting magic, social structure, and history developed in this book. I especially loved how the decline in ruling from a Queendom to a Kingdom where the queens have essentially given all their power to her husband over time really hinted at the same type of direction the story was going to take. The author did a great job placing these hints and connecting everything in a smooth flow that never felt like an information overload to the reader.
The storyline flowed so very well. There was a fantastic mix of emotional drama, angst and the sweeter buildup on the romance side. The romance was definitely not the focus of the story, though it was very much there. It really focus on Alyce’s build up to becoming a villain. And it was such a ride! Once Alyce crosses that line into actually killing people I have no idea what I should feel. Up to that point we get to see everything that has just been stacking against her and in a way we really see the justification for her actions. I ended the book completely blown away by the turn of events. We see Alyce exactly how we expect, guarding a sleeping princess against a kingdom that hates her.
This was a great retelling that gives the reader a new way of looking at a classic and very well known fairytale. Good story telling and great character development make this an extremely enjoyable read and one you won’t want to put down.
As mentioned above, I’ve never actually read Pride and Prejudice and when I read this book, I wasn’t actually aware that the story is essentially a spin off with established characters from that book. I can say that this book can be read on it’s own, but I feel that if I had read Pride and Prejudice first this would have fixed my biggest issue I had when reading this book.
I had a difficult time getting into the story when I started. The entire book is told in the form of letters the main character Charlotte is writing to her friend Elizabeth that never actually plans on sending. This letters or more of a way for Charlotte to essentially write in a diary so she can talk about the things in her life she cannot tell anyone. Because of this, I felt dropped into the middle of a conversation. People and events were referenced that I had no context for. About a third of the way through the book though this stopped really being an issue. As I said, you can read this by itself so the author did a pretty good job of of keeping these comments irrelevant to the overall plot and adding just enough back story that it pieced together without feeling like unrealistic exposition. Beyond that, I did actually end up liking the letter format.It was unique and interesting.
Because of the writing style, we really get to know the Charlotte the most. I found her quirky and funny in certain spots. I grew fond of her throughout the story. Because everything is in her voice, any other characters we meet are told to us as she sees them. This makes it a unique way get to know these characters, some of which, including her own husband, she barely cares about at all. Her love interest, Ailsa Reid is treated the same way, with the exception of her own letter to Charlotte being included for us to read in full. That does give us a chance to know her a little bit better than the other characters, but I was happy to see this only happens once in the story.
Since the story is told in letters the plot has an interesting way of pacing. Charlotte writes when she needs to talk about something and only when she has time to be alone to do so. This sometimes results in only a few sentences written in an evening and long stretches of time between entries. I thought this would bother me more than it did, but I found it really helped keeping the story to more relevant moments. There were a few times I sort of felt like it veered off a bit, but those were fleeting. It stuck very well with Charlotte feelings and relationship with Ailsa.
My only issues is the lack of detail in some spots. The ending felt a little bit rushed. I do understand a lot of it involves Charlotte’s ability and desire to write it all down, but once the plan of faking Charlotte’s death was established it felt lacking. It sort of felt like everything important happened and the rest was just thrown in to finish it out. Once again I understand it is mostly because of Charlotte not feeling the need to write anymore but it was just a bit unsatisfying.
While it was a bit hard for me to get into at first, I am glad I stuck with it. It was an interesting read, but might not be right for everyone.