Title: While Beauty Slept
Author: Elizabeth Blackwell
Release Date: February 20, 2014
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books / Putnam
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Elise Dalriss awakens from a terrible sickness to find that her family has fallen victim to the plague she’s managed to live through. Determined to take her future into her own hands, Elise decides to seek a place in the castle, where her mother used to serve. But there are dark things happening in the castle, and as Elise finds herself at the center of events, she tries to protect those around her from the evil that is coming.
A retelling of Sleeping Beauty, While Beauty Slept is a dark novel full of secrets and lies. Readers will enjoy Elise’s narration as they find themselves drawn into this world of intrigue, hopeful that there will be some light on the other end.
While Beauty Slept is a gorgeous retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, fleshed out and made whole through Elizabeth Blackwell’s words. It comes across as a historical novel, rather than a fantasy, full of the gossip and intrigue of court life. Blackwell does an incredible job writing this atmosphere; readers will be able to feel the closeness within the castle and to sense the darkness within its walls. Blackwell presents a realistic version of the fairy tale we know and love; the subject matter can be heavy at times—after all, the original story is much darker than the one we know through Disney.
Elise is really the highlight of While Beauty Slept. She’s smart, loyal, and resourceful, three qualities that make it easy to take to her quickly. She’s straightforward, and while she has her loves and lusts, she’s not a flighty teen. Readers will quickly become emotionally involved with Elise, hopeful that she’ll find some happiness. She’s the heart of the story, to be sure.
Though While Beauty Slept isn’t a supernatural novel, the book has a magic all its own through Blackwell’s writing. It is beautiful and makes the story a delight to read, even when it’s at its darkest. It’s nice to see Blackwell tackle the more difficult aspects of life through this book; after all, it would have been so easy to make it a lighter read. But no, Elise must contend with jealousy (both her own and others’), scheming, manipulation, religious fervor, death, loss, pride, social status, and more in this book. It’s the addition of these issues that make it a deeper, more introspective read, but that never keeps it from being an absolutely enjoyable page turner.