This Adult Fantasy, which mixes various fairytales with "The Ring Cycle," is one of Lackey's better 500 Kingdoms novels.
Heavy is the head--and the eyelids--of the princess who wears the crown...In Rosamund's realm, happiness hinges on a few simple beliefs: For every princess there's a prince. The king has ultimate power. Stepmothers should never be trusted. And bad things come to those who break with Tradition....
But when Rosa is pursued by a murderous huntsman and then captured by dwarves, her beliefs go up in smoke. Determined to escape and save her kingdom from imminent invasion, she agrees to become the guinea pig in one of her stepmother's risky incantations--thus falling into a deep, deep sleep.
When awakened by a touchy-feely stranger, Rosa must choose between Tradition and her future...between a host of eligible princes and a handsome, fair-haired outsider. And learn the difference between being a princess and ruling as a queen.
The moral of the story? Sometimes a princess has to create her own happy endings....
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The Sleeping Beauty by Mercedes Lackey, read by Gabra Zackman, published by Audible Studios (2013) / Length: 11 hrs 5 min
This is Book #5 of 6 in the "Five Hundred Kingdoms" series. These books can easily be read as standalones.
Although I feel that Ms Lackey's newer books lack the narrative tightness & emotional punch of her earlier work, this one is the one I like the most. I enjoy the characters, even the disreputable ones, and find more of the story to be interesting.
Note: it is not necessary to be familiar with "The Ring Cycle" at all. Ms. Lackey does an excellent job of presenting the slightly altered details she has based this on.
There are 3 main protagonists in this story.
Rosamund: Her father is the King and her mother, the late Queen, was once a commoner who got her HEA. Although she is definitely a damsel in distress, she does everything she can to save herself. And although she is strong, I like that at a particularly low moment she lets her self cry and be hysterical. Also that she still needs some help.
Siegfried: Although his background is very similar to that of Wagner's character with the same name (and he is running from a prophecy that he will marry his Valkyrie aunt), he is not the same type of person at all. He is intelligent, honorable, and very likeable. He has an intelligent Bird who keeps him company. Although he used to think that girls were icky, now he thinks that having someone "all his own" would be nice.
Godmother Lilly: She is a true Faerie Godmother (in this world, some Fairy Godmother's are talented & trained human women). She has been watching over the Kingdom for 100s of years. Some FG's take care of multiple kingdoms, but this one comes with enough troubles to keep her busy. She relies heavily on her mirror servant Jimson who is a great side character.
This takes place in a a world where magic has taken on a power of its own in the form of The Tradition. This is a non-sentient force that seeks to push everyone into typical fairy tale roles regardless of whether it will make them happy or not. There are Fae folk, but they don't have a big presence in this book; there are also mythical creatures such as unicorns; and all the typical fairy tale trappings.
I did feel like it took quite awhile to get to the most interesting parts of the book, and that maybe it should have started a bit later and flashbacked some more. Once all the main characters come together and are known to each other, it really picks up. (Note: this seems to be an issue with many of her newer books, I feel like the main story did start a bit sooner here than in others I've read.)
I wish we had gotten more parts with Rosamund and her future husband interacting together, although I liked what we did get. And there is one section where everyone is having to answer riddles and it jumps back and forth so much that it's hard to tell which answers go with which questions (this may only apply to audio version, I don't know).
Since each of these books is essentially standalone, we get a very satisfactory ending that wraps everything up nicely.
HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:
- The "waking Sleeping Beauty" scene
- The "get rid of the curses" quest
- Siegfried's courting gift to Rosamund
I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: A male character is laughed at for being a virgin. /
Mild swearing / Non-graphic harm to animals
Character voices differentiated = Yes / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes / Accents = Sounded good to me / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good / Emoting = Good / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual
I find her voice very soothing, which makes this a great "comfort listen."
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