While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

February 20, 2014 Coming of Age, Fairy Tales, Friendship 12

Dearest Bookworms,

Once upon a time, a publisher emailed me with an offer to review a fractured fairy tale. While Beauty Slept
by Elizabeth Blackwell tells a less Disney-fied version of the classic Sleeping Beauty tale. *I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was threatened with zero poisoned spinning wheels.*

while beauty slept

The story begins with a very old Elise telling the story of her life to her great-granddaughter. Elise started her life being raised on a farm in an unspecified medieval-ish time. Her upbringing is poverty stricken- she’s no stranger to hunger… Or to sharing her bed with younger siblings. One day, THE POX attacks. Blackwell doesn’t specify what type of pox it is, so I googled… I think it’s supposed to be smallpox, but I’m not entirely sure if smallpox can theoretically spread from cows to pigs to humans… (Mira Grant and her scientific explanations have RUINED me for other authors’ fictional plagues… Vague poxes will no longer suffice!)

Anyway. The plague wipes out most of Elise’s family and at 14, she takes a position as a servant in the local castle. That’s what you do, if you’re lucky. At least you get fed at regular intervals. If you’re unlucky, you get stuck hanging out with poxy pigs, and nobody’s got time for that! While at court, Elise rises quickly. She’s soon attending to the queen and later the princess, all under the shadow of some seriously bad blood between the royal family and the king’s wicked, wicked aunt, Millicent.

I enjoyed the grittier version of Sleeping Beauty. I love a good plague, and I like when fairy tale re-tellings don’t rely exclusively on a Prince Charming. Elise, Queen Lenore, and Millicent are no shrinking violets. Strong female characters rock. What didn’t rock quite so much for me was the abundance of insta-love. I know it’s a fairy tale, but sheesh. Love at first sight right and left. sleepingbeauty

I also could have done without the really heavy handed foreshadowing. It’s hard to be surprised by a turn of events or a personality change in a critical character when you’re continuously smacked over the head with phrases like, “if only I’d known what she would become” or “it was the last time they would be happy,” etc. I wanted to shake old lady Elise and tell her to get on with the story already! I think you have to be a broody Victorian to make that sort of thing work.

Overall, this book was alright for me. Nothing to prick my finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel over, but a pleasant enough way to pass the time. If fairy tales are your thing, I recommend taking a trip down fairy tale lane with While Beauty Slept

Tell me, Bookworms. What’s your favorite fairy tale?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

12 Responses to “While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell”

  1. Jenny @ Reading the End

    INSTA LOOOOOOOOOVE (she shouted, shaking her fist at the heavens)

    The Six Swans is my super favorite, with Rapunzel a close second. The Six Swans somehow gets me every time — that youngest brother ending up with one arm still a swan wing. It’s strange to me that nobody ever addresses the fact that the main character now has to live with the prince/king who was all set to have her executed, but whatever.

  2. Heather @ Capricious Reader

    I’m so sick of insta-love. Geez, make characters work for it for once writers!!! Grrrr! *joins Jenny is shaking the fists*

    Dang, I was kinda wanting to read this, but you address things that bother me in books. I may get to it eventually, but I got better things to read. lol

  3. Megan M.

    My fave fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast, natch. That library! I’ve read a few different versions of the story and I would gladly live in any of them.

  4. Ashley F

    Ug I hate blatant foreshadowing. I like to be SURPRISED!!!

    We’ve talked about this, loved Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire. I actually enjoyed it MORE than Wicked. Not only am I a hardcore Cinderella fan from back in the day, but I LOVED the spin he put on it.

    • Words For Worms

      It’s weird, I’d almost rather read a full spoilery review of a book than deal with the characters hinting at me. I’m such a curmudgeon. (That said, I’m really not particularly bothered by spoilers… Probably why I struggle with over-revealing pretty much constantly.)

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