A Wicked Thing
tells the story of Sleeping Beauty – starting after she awakens from her hundred-year sleep. Her kingdom has changed, her parents are dead, and she’s alone and confused in a new world.
I picked this up after reading some good reviews from other bloggers – and seeing the cover. Isn’t it beautiful? Yes, I do buy books because they have pretty covers.
I knew I would like this book within the first page, with a two-word paragraph describing Aurora’s reaction to being woken by a stranger’s kiss: ‘Aurora screamed.’ Clearly, this is not the happily-ever-after from the Disney version. In fact, the idea that this stranger should be her true love is explored throughout the book. Rodric, the prince who awakes her, is a kind, gentle soul, but they do not love each other, and he is as trapped by his ordained fate as Aurora is. It’s an interesting twist on a common fantasy trope, that of the prophecy that the protagonist is destined to fulfill. There is no prophecy here, but the tale of Aurora’s curse has grown in the telling over a hundred years to include the manner of her awakening: true love’s kiss. Princes from all over have tried on their eighteenth birthday, but only Rodric succeeds, and now the entire country thinks they are destined to be together.
The biggest criticism I’ve seen from others about this book is that Aurora is indecisive. While this is true, I think if she had not been it would have rung false. For one thing, Aurora is a very contemplative character. She’s a thinker. For another, she’s in shock. Imagine the culture shock of someone from 1915 waking up today, trying to understand even the most fundamental aspects of daily life. Add in the fact that Aurora is grieving her parents, and it’s even more understandable that she struggles to make decisions.
The portrayal of Aurora’s grief was another part of the book I liked. Grief makes you indecisive, it makes it hard to focus, and I think Aurora’s grief for her parents, and for the life lost, contributes to her indecisiveness. And, as grief tends to do, Aurora’s waxes and wanes. The first night after she wakes up, she alternates between heart-rending sobs and thinking of her parents as though they’re about to appear. Their shadows haunt her throughout the novel, but she does not always have time to give in to her grief, for it soon becomes clear that her kingdom is in peril.
A Wicked Thing is an engaging read and a twist on a familiar tale, in which the happily-ever-after we expect couldn’t be further from the truth.