Publication Date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 400 (ARC)
Source: From Author For Review
Game of Thrones meets the Grimm's fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty's daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.
Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora's throne ten years ago.
Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it's too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?
If there's anything I'm sure of, it's the fact that Stacey Jay is amazing at writing fairytale re-tellings and re-imaginings. However, this is a bit of a re-constructed fairytale. Jay took the original tale of Sleeping Beauty and had it play out with the main character's mother and instead the story focuses o Aurora, Sleeping Beauty's daughter, and her brother Jor. This is just one of the many awesome things about this story.
I loved Aurora (I'll be referring to her as Ror since that's the name she uses in the book), but I want to focus on something else worth noting, too. She's off gallivanting as Jor, trying to raise an army to get back her kingdom. Though she is small, she hides her feminine body and uses a warrior's knot to deal with her long hair. Blessed with skill and strength in battle, she can fight alongside the best of them. What makes this so great is that she isn't one of those people that is drop dead gorgeous and doesn't realize it. She almost has an asexual face and while there is feminine beauty to it, she isn't jaw-dropping. People really do mistake her for a man...granted a fuzz-faced baby man, but a man nonetheless. Points for this physical notation because it is so rare to see in a book!
And onto Ror's character. This is not only a girl that will make an amazing Queen, she would make a kickass BFF too. She has guts and doesn't take no for an answer. Full of passion and perseverance, she will do whatever it takes to help her people. She carries guilt with her for all wrongdoings and does her best to avoid certain blessings that seem more like curses since that's what's to be expected from faeries. But, best of all, she does not allow gender to hinder anything. She constantly calls Niklaas out for his initial machismo attitude, patronizing ways, and sexism that makes him view women as playthings that'll fall at his feet at every turn. It's wonderful to see her puff out her chest and take him down with her words. We need more women like her in our books.
Niklaas is slightly insufferable in the very beginning, but it is very easy to warm up to him. It becomes increasingly obvious that his views towards women are more because of how he was raised and ignorance than an echo of what he truly believes in. He's like a lion, ferocious and gorgeous to look at and admire, but he has a huge heart of gold full of warmth for those he holds dear. He is incredibly well characterized and Stacey Jay has acknowledged that he is my future husband. I have e-mail proof, so do with that what you will. He's fighting against the clock to avoid a curse that can doom him forever, and surprisingly enough, the young boy he comes to aid that's really a girl masquerading as a man is his very last hope.
The romance, guys...THE. ROMANCE. I am a slave to perfect, witty banter and hilarious insults and Stacey Jay has both of these concepts figured out. The banter in this is deserving of an award and the insults still make me giggle as I think of them now, weeks after I finished the book. It seriously took me this long to write the review because of how much I had to mull over these admittedly unintelligible words. The best thing about this romance is that it followed a realistic pace. Granted, it has the element of it all happening fast to it as does every fairytale, but hatred morphed into begrudging respect to a curious liking to an all out passion. There were bumps in the road and it wasn't love at first sight at all. So, in other words, any romance not involving love or lust at first sight is perfect.
The lore in this is superb as well, especially that of the ogres. I never considered ogres to be interesting creatures, but Stacey Jay swooped in and totally changed my mind on that. I think the lore she wove was some of the most fascinating lore I've read in a while. Granted, the ending with the ogre queen, Ekeeta, was a bit out of the blue and I wish it was more detailed, but I can't even detract from it because for a supposedly heinous character, Ekeeta had a lot of fascination and depth in her.
While the beginning was slightly confusing, the book jumps immediately into things with Ror on her journey to trying to raise an army to save her kingdom and brother when a Sun God suddenly crosses her path and turns her world upside down. Jay takes us through a world that involves crazy awesome world-building and unique backdrops like the Feasting Woods. This is a fast read that proves to be unputdownable and, in my opinion, may be the best Jay has produced yet. Perfect for fantasy lovers and fairytale nerds like myself, this is a book that cannot be ignored!
Also worth noting for the fairytale nerds like myself, there are a few hidden fairytales in here as well. I caught Little Red Riding Hood and The Wild Swans on top of Sleeping Beauty and I'm sure there are more that I didn't catch because of how much my mind was reeling as I was reading. She's definitely woven some gems in this beautiful piece of work.
To sum up this review as simply as possible: BUY THE BOOK NOW!
Warning: There is death, suicide, talk of suicide, doom, destruction (all that jazz!), mentions of sex, drinking, foul language, and more. Not suitable for younger audiences due to these dark undertones.
FTC Disclaimer: I received noc ompensation of any kind in exchange for my honest review. These opinions are my own.