My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This review will include my thoughts on the audio book version in addition to the content.
When this book started, I was a little bit concerned I was not going to end up liking it. I was worried that there would be some very tropey similarities to other books I had read. Thankfully though this book teases at those tropes and then takes a complete left turn from what I was expecting. The land and folklore were so rich and interesting as well. What really pulled me in though was main protagonist Soraya. She was everything I wanted in a protagonist for a story like this.
My only issue I had is that I felt the feelings towards other characters happened a bit suddenly, especially one character in particular.
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 really enjoyed that this book starts with a princess that sees herself as a monster because her skin is poisonous to the touch for any person or animal. This was fun and interesting to me. Shortly after the opening though I started growing concerned. The book started introducing elements that felt really trope-y to me and started making me think of other books I had read. This continued for a little bit but the writing was solid so I was willing to keep going, and I am so happy I did! This story would take some sudden sharp turns from where I was expecting it to go and surprise me in the best way. I was surprised that random no one soldier Azad was set up as a love interest because the building connection between them felt very quick. It made so much more sense though that he would actually be the big bad of the book using her desperate need for human connection to his advantage. I felt this was well planned and really played into the continued connection between them throughout the book. I actually really liked Azad, or more accurately The Shahmar as a villain and overall character.
Parvaneh was also a really interesting character and ACTUAL love interest for Soraya. In this case though, I did feel like the romance between them was a little bit rushed. It started out good and continued pretty strong through the book, but it went from attraction to something a little more physical a little bit early. I just felt it needed a bit more build up.
The best part of the story though was Soraya herself. She was a great character. Her development through the book was so strong. I loved that she started out scared and a little weak because of her own insecurities and by the end of the story she learns that the thing she thought was a weakness was actually something that made her who she is. She struggles to figure out who she is and where she falls on the good versus evil scale. This made so much sense to her character, especially when she knew the whole reason the kingdom was in danger was because she put herself and her desires before all else. She is a terrific example of great character development.
This book was a fun and interesting twist to a story I thought I could predict.
The narrator, Nikki Massoud, did a terrific job. It was a little amusing though when she would do the deep voices for the non-human Divs. This didn’t break the vibe for me at all, and I got used to it pretty quickly.