My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I had high hopes for this book but honestly, it was a letdown. I liked the general idea and adored that the two protagonists were older women, but the story was bogged down with so much other content that it felt padded out to make it longer. There was so much involving the politics and royalty of the country and beekeeping that I got bored very often. I felt like the actual romance part took up way less of the book than it should have. When things finally progressed between the two the explicit nature of the relationship between them felt so sudden and out of place that it felt the author changed her mind about how she wanted to write it in the last fourth of the book.
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.
I was really excited to start this book. The premise sounded really interesting and I really like that both of the protagonists where older women. That’s pretty much the only thing I really liked.
The pacing of this book was so off and I was bored through more than half of the book. I would loosely call this book a slow burn romance simply because Agatha and Penelope don’t act on their feelings until the last fourth or so of the story. The actual content relevant to the growing attraction made up so little of the plot. There were large chunks of the story that dove deep the politics and controversy that was going on in the country around them. So much so that I felt this was added simply to pad out the story and make the book longer. The issues going on with the King and Queen had little to do with the actual plot other than to show her son being outspoken about it. I really felt like there was too much. This also applied to things like the beekeeping.
A large portion of who Penelope is involves her expertise on beekeeping and realistically, it’s what introduced her to Agatha. After that, there was so much about it that it also felt like an attempt to stretch the story and show off how much research the author had done for it. I appreciate that she did, but I didn’t need to know so much.
There was a somewhat large cast of side characters that I feel was not handled well. I honestly couldn’t keep half of the names straight and again, there was so much going on with them that it took away from the main plot.
When Agatha and Penelope finally do confess their feelings and act on it, the plot takes such a turn that it felt almost like a different book. Yes the two became a little crass in conversation when discussing their sex lives as close friends would, but that gets kicked up several notches after everything is out in the open. The sex scenes that happen (and the ones that are alluded to) are far more explicit than I would have pictured from these two and it just felt like an excuse to push the story into erotica territory at the last minute.
The most interesting part of the book to me was really the last chapter or so when Agatha finally realizes she can leave the family business to more than just her son.
This book had a lot of potential, but it was too busy and the plot was lost almost from the start.