Science fiction and fantasy


Buy on Kobo

Once Upon A Dream

by Liz Braswell

The story of Sleeping Beauty is a passive and unheroic one for the princess, Aurora Rose. In Liz Braswell's version the first sign that the princess will have more agency comes at the start, when a dragon-slaying prince shows up at her castle whilst she is asleep and tries to kiss her awake, only to find herself drawn into the sleeping curse.

Aurora lives in a world where everything we thought we knew about her story has been rewritten, apart from the part about her being a princess in a castle. The three fairies who gave her gifts as a baby were wicked, and they aimed to enslave her, whilst her parents are locked in the dungeon for their role in trying to sell her. The world outside the castle is an apocalyptic wasteland ruined by dark magic where nothing can live, whilst the people left in the castle survive thanks to Maleficent, who rules benevolently and supplies them with magical food. Or so Aurora believes, at first.

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

4 star rating

Review ©

Source: library

Book Details

Year of release: 2016

Categories: Books
Cheerful Female Protagonist

If you like this, try:

Fairest: Wide Awake cover
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.