Science fiction and fantasy
Once Upon A Dream
by Liz Braswell
The castle is isolated by thick thorns and full of nobles, servants, and a few curious servants who aren't exactly human and can be a bit brutal. With all the books in the castle magically blank, Aurora has little to do except prepare for monthly balls and raise morale by singing to people.
Aurora senses that things aren't quite right, but she is often too sleepy to be able to do much about it, plus her memory is clouded. Gradually clues appear, leading Aurora on a quest for the truth. But time is running out for her to realise what's really going on, even though time itself is twisted in her sleeping world. She contends with traps, mind games, and demonic minions as she attempts to escape her fate whilst protecting the rest of the people in the castle from attack. Amongst her adventures into the enchanted world of the castle and what lies beyond, Aurora has a more figurative journey to make into her own psyche. Issues of self-image, of betrayal and how people have treated her in the past, and of parental abandonment, loom large.
Phillip, the prince, introduces a sweet and understated romantic thread. His presence suggests a happily ever after, and as princes go he's very wholesome and upbeat. However, Aurora isn't keen to be the kind of princess who needs to be rescued all the time, or to be a silly, airheaded royal concerned mainly with clothes, balls, and other self-indulgence. So she's not in Phillip's shadow.
The fairies guide Aurora, whilst other characters range from the practical and dependable to the lunatic and highly eccentric. The journey is never dull as Aurora moves around a world that is further and further away from the one she thought she knew, and as the stakes get higher. Some of the tension is dissipated due to the sheer amount of magic spells, because it can seem like a wish and an incantation could solve all of our main character's problems. Yet overall this is an enjoyable story with a villain who is smart and conflicted enough to make things interesting. And, more than anything it focuses on Aurora's role in her life, on her questions about the position she finds herself in and what she's going to do about it, so that even though other people expect her to be passive in this story, it's her active rejection of that role that makes her likeable and worth rooting for.
4th February 2020
If you like this, try:Fairest: Wide Awake by Bill Willingham and Phil Jimenez
When Ali Baba finds two Sleeping Beauties, he has no idea which one he should wake with a kiss. A graphic novel featuring the characters from Fables.
Review © Ros Jackson