The Sleeping Beauty (Tale of the Five Hundred Kingdoms)
By Mercedes Lackey
Published 2010, LUNA Books
Hardback, 345 pages
Heavy is the head—and the eyelids—of the princess who wears the crown…I found this book to be quite engrossing and entertaining as a retelling of a mixture of common fairy tales, namely Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Other tales are also given some attention, such as the Frog Prince, as a source of humor and explanation of random occurences. The lengths to which Rosa and her Fairy Godmother must go to escapes the clutches of The Tradition are both ingenious and exhausting, and it makes me appreciate that my own life is not dictated by some non-conscious "force."
In Rosamund's realm, happiness hinges on a few simple beliefs:
For every princess there's a prince.
The king has ultimate power.
Stepmothers should never be trusted.
And bad things come to those who break with Tradition….
But when Rosa is pursued by a murderous huntsman and then captured by dwarves, her beliefs go up in smoke. Determined to escape and save her kingdom from imminent invasion, she agrees to become the guinea pig in one of her stepmother's risky incantations—thus falling into a deep, deep sleep.
When awakened by a touchy-feely stranger, Rosa must choose between Tradition and her future…between a host of eligible princes and a handsome, fair-haired outsider. And learn the difference between being a princess and ruling as a queen.
The moral of the story? Sometimes a princess has to create her own happy endings….
I especially enjoyed the many different challenges that the two women conceived to test the many Princes vying for Rosa's hand in marriage, and I even tried to answer a few myself before I read ahead. The novel takes the modernized approach that the Damsel in Distress does not always need a man to save her from Doom - but having a few handy just in case certainly don't hurt!
I enjoyed how unique each of the characters are, even minor characters, such as some of the Princes who were eliminated early or the different Brownies in the service of the Fairy Godmother. Seigfried and Leopold are opposites in many ways, and yet they work very well together. Seigfried's bird is also great entertainment and quite convenient as a source of knowledge and backstory. The way that Leopold resolves the force of the The Tradition that has been plaguing Seigfried is rather perfect, too. The mirror spirit, Jimson, who serves the Fairy Godmother, Lily, is also quite endearing, and I found his resolution somewhat predictable, but still enjoyable.
What I like most about the Five Hundred Kingdom series is that even though each of the books in the series could qualify as a stand-alone novel, each book still sneaks in elements to connect it to the backstory of previous books, such as when Lily contacts Elena regarding dragons. The fairy tales are reimagined in the light of modern values while still favoring core elements, and even an adult such as myself can appreciate them!
The Cover: This is perfect for a fairy tale-retelling, all pink with a splash of pink roses, a beautiful princess, and the dashing prince in shining armor - fantastic!
First Line: "Mirror, mirror, in my hand, who's the fairest in the land?"
Now this is a classic fairy tale line that also gives a hint of one of the main focal points of the novel - the mirror. I am eager to keep going with this opening line.
Favorite Quote: "If that is another weapon you threw at me, Princess," he said carefully, "it is most effective."
Read For: Support Your Local Library Challenge, Speculative Fiction Challenge, Once Upon a Time Challenge