I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.
I think it is always intriguing when authors take well-known stories and either reimagine them or flesh them out a bit more. In WHILE BEAUTY SLEPT, Blackwell offers us the "real" story behind Sleeping Beauty.
Elise Dalriss overhears her granddaughter telling the story of a beautiful princess in a tower awakened by a handsome prince. The granddaughter tells her grandmother that she heard the tale from a minstrel. The story brings Elise back to her youth spent as a servant at the castle. Elise tells the story of how she rose from a poor peasant to a lady-in-waiting at the court of King Rannolf and how she stood witness the true story behind the princess in the castle.
Overall, I think Blackwell's retelling of Sleeping Beauty was very clever and interesting. I think fans of Geraldine Brooks' YEAR OF WONDERS will find much to like here. Elise is a compelling character and storyteller. I didn't want to put the book down because I had to know what happened. I think I read the whole thing in two days. When the reader gets to the part of the book that deals with the famous story, it is at the very end and felt a little bit disappointing after all the buildup. Indeed, that is my one major complaint about the book. Almost every chapter ended up with heavy foreshadowing or a statement to the effect of "little did I know then" or "the worst was yet to come." After awhile, it got a bit tiresome. That did not stop me from enjoying the book. I like the way it reminds us of how stories can change as they are passed on and how myths and legends develop.
BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. This would be a great vacation or beach read. It goes at a quick pace and is very entertaining. The ending is a bit of a letdown but it doesn't detract from the book overall.