Elizabeth Blackwell’s “While Beauty Slept” is a rich re-telling of the Sleeping Beauty story that we all know. Told from the point of view of Elise, who starts her life as a lowly castle servant in the kingdom of St. Elsip, Blackwell’s creations blend beautifully with those we already may be familiar with. What I particularly enjoyed was the love and attention that Blackwell gives to each of her characters. Elise, Rose, Queen Lenore, Malefic- I mean, Millicent– I felt like I knew each of them like friends by the end of the novel. The author does a nice job of walking the line between the aspects of the story we have come to expect (ex. the spinning wheel), and much more grown up themes. Though I would not describe “While Beauty Slept” as a coming of age novel, it touches on themes that far exceed your traditional fairytale; instead of the kids’ version, we get adult ambition, love (not just the instant-at-first-sight kind), greed, envy, and revenge. Don’t pick this one expecting fairies, magic potions, etc, “While Beauty Slept” almost reads more like historical fiction.
Except for being a little too heavy handed with foreshadowing about all of the “horrible things to come” and the “curse that hung over everyone,” Blackwell’s writing is clean and evenly paced. I did find myself putting the book down around the 40% mark for a little break, but when I picked it up again it was finished in a day long sitting. On the long side (400+ pages), I did not find myself wanting less or more and was very satisfied by the conclusion. The writing is descriptive enough to help paint each scene without bogging the reader down in too much detail; trust me once you have a mental picture of St. Elsip each scene comes to life in vivid color.
Overall I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys classic stories with a twist on the new, though I would argue that what Blackwell creates is a new story in its own right. If you liked “The Kingdom of Little Wounds” (read our review here) you should definitely pick this one up.
Available from Amazon.com.
xo The Book Bird
p.s. You should definitely listen to this song on repeat while you’re reading- it got stuck in my head and totally set the atmosphere!