While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell
(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) "And so begins Elise Dalriss's story. When she hears her great-granddaughter recount a minstrel's tale about a beautiful princess asleep in a tower, it pushes open a door to the past, a door Elise has long kept locked. For Elise was the companion to the real princess who slumbered--and she is the only one left who knows what actually happened so many years ago. As the memories start to unfold, Elise is plunged back into the magnificent, opulent world behind the palace walls she left behind more than half a century ago, a labyrinth where the secrets of her real father and the mysterious fate of her mother connect to an inconceivable evil. Elise has guarded these secrets for a lifetime. Now it is time for her to tell the tale....."
I'm definitely a sucker for a fairy tale, especially one with a princess involved, so I was very excited to be asked to review this book. I didn't really know what to expect, but the intricately woven tale I found when I opened this book just sucked me right in. It is told from the vantage point of Elise Dalriss, who grew up on a farm. When she and her family came down with the pox, she almost died. Her mother and a few of her brothers did die. Her mother's last words were to tell Elise to leave the farm and go find her aunt, and then find an old acquaintance. Her mother had sewn several gold coins into the seam of her dress so Elise could leave the farm. What Elise finds when she gets to her aunt's house, and then afterward to the castle in hopes of finding a job as a servant, boggle her mind. She has never seen such extravagance. Elise ends up, after awhile, as the queen's personal attendant. The story goes on to tell the reader what happened at the castle, and how it was far from what we now know as the story of Sleeping Beauty. The story is well written. It is written more like historical fiction than fairy tale, and I did like it that way. I don't know if any of the information is historically accurate, but I thought it made the story seem more real. Many of the characters were well developed: I loved Elise, Queen Lenore, and Rose. I also really liked Flora, but wish there had been a little more on her. I liked Mrs. Tewkes a lot as well. I thought Ms. Blackwell did a good job of setting the scene of the castle. Her descriptions were well done but not over-the-top. Even though I've never lived in a castle, I felt like I was there. I loved the little pieces of honesty between the King and Queen; I loved their brief moments of unguarded love and the moments they were free to be themselves. I thought Elise was a good narrator and was able to bring all the pieces together. The ending was hard for me. I think it was fine and fitting, but it wasn't the direction I thought it would go. It also wasn't as happy as I had wished it would be. I didn't expect it to be pure happiness, but it was more depressing than I had hoped it would be. It definitely makes me thankful to be born when I was and where I was. I've always been intrigued by castles, knights, and princesses, but I'll take my circumstances (and vaccinations) any day. Besides, I have my knight-in-shining-armor, so who needs a prince??
There really isn't any language in this book. There is a bit of violence: you know that they are at war, and there is a murder. There is also some "intimacy." You know when the King goes to the Queen in her bed at night; there are some mischievous young men in the castle that put their hands places they shouldn't. There are a few actual "intimacy" scenes. I really enjoyed this book. It totally sucked me in. It was a bit depressing at the end, but the time period was a difficult one in which to live. I liked the format of it, and was enthralled by the characters and story. I liked her take on the popular fairy tale, and the format almost made it seem very realistic.
Rating: R (No language, a murder and a war, and some "intimacy" innuendos and scenes.)
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.