While Beauty Slept is a bleak rendition of the Sleeping Beauty tale. I liked it well enough, yet I couldn't help but compare it to Spindle's End, a bo...moreWhile Beauty Slept is a bleak rendition of the Sleeping Beauty tale. I liked it well enough, yet I couldn't help but compare it to Spindle's End, a book with a similar plot but much more magic, both in the story and in the telling.
I'm a fan of retold fairy tales, and this one imagines how actual events might have been embellished into the Sleeping Beauty legend, over time. That means there's almost no magic, although there are a few "magic?" moments that make you wonder how much power the "witches" in the story really had. You could put their powers down to persuasion, charisma, and herbal knowledge, or you could see them as something more. I liked the idea that this was something that could have actually happened in medieval times, with the "enchanted sleep" a euphemism for a real disease, but the story still carries a hint of fantasy, as the place names are pretty much made up.
(I might have liked the book better if it had swung harder in one direction than another--either straight-up historical fiction or straight-up medieval fantasy. As it was, it didn't have enough world-building to satisfy my fantasy tastes, and not enough reality for a true work of historical fiction.)
Like Spindle's End, the story is told mostly from the perspective of an older-sister figure of the princess, and (vague ending spoilers) (view spoiler)[the twist at the end is virtually identical (hide spoiler)], albeit with more death and less magic. So I couldn't help but compare the two. I realize there are only so many ways to retell a fairy tale, but the similarities were enough to made me feel like I'd read this version before.
I did like the narrator, Elise, and her romance with Marcus. However, Elise spent far too much of the book going "If only I had known then what would happen later! Would I have made the same choice? I'll never know!" which can be effective when used sparingly, but it gets old fast.
A diverting enough way to spend an afternoon, but for me it doesn't come close to Spindle's End, which will always be one of my favorites.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
A compelling version of Rumpelstiltskin, with a strong heroine at its center. Spookier than I thought it'd be--had me leery of shadows. One of those b...moreA compelling version of Rumpelstiltskin, with a strong heroine at its center. Spookier than I thought it'd be--had me leery of shadows. One of those books I stayed up half the night finishing because I couldn't bear the suspense. A solid addition to the fairytale-retelling canon.(less)
This is total comfort reading for me. Like being wrapped in a big fluffy blanket of fairy tales. Fairy tale retellings are the best. All the romance a...moreThis is total comfort reading for me. Like being wrapped in a big fluffy blanket of fairy tales. Fairy tale retellings are the best. All the romance and fantasy with much less of the sexism.
The magic in this book is a little woojy, and maybe that was McKinley's intention, but it makes it hard for me to visualize the scenes that are mostly about magic. The setting the rest of the time is wonderful and easy to picture.
Evil contains the seeds of its own destruction. Family is less about blood than about love. Fish don't exist.(less)
Aw, this book was super cute. My favorite part was the way it blends different fairy tales. The main narrative has elements of Sleeping Beauty, but al...moreAw, this book was super cute. My favorite part was the way it blends different fairy tales. The main narrative has elements of Sleeping Beauty, but along the way many others make appearances--but always with some kind of twist. Many of them are even gender-switched, and it's like Murdock KNEW that gender-switched fairy tales are my absolute favorite thing and wrote this book just to make me happy.
This book also contains a lot of positive messages for young girls. The heroine is smart, resourceful and hilarious. She's no damsel in distress--when she gets in trouble, she saves herself. However, I'm not sure how I feel about the narrative about her weight. For most of the book she eats with great gusto, and she's fat, and this isn't presented as a bad thing, which I love. But after she goes through some hardships and loses some weight, she realizes that she was eating for emotional reasons rather than physical hunger, and she keeps her new figure. It's emphasized that she is NOT skinny, just not AS fat as she was. Still, the implication is that fat people are fat because they eat to fill a psychological need. Which is certainly true for some people, fat OR thin, but it's not The Reason fat people are fat. Some people eat small portions and are still fat. Some people eat a whole lot and are thin.
I do, however, like that she ultimately comes away with the message that focusing on looks at all is shallow and petty. When everyone is exclaiming over her new figure, rather than loving it, she's annoyed by it. Afterwards when she sees people gossiping about someone's looks or weight, she tries to remind them that the person they're talking about is a person, with many qualities that matter more than appearance. Still, I'd like to see a book where the heroine is fat at the beginning and STAYS fat and that's OK.(less)