Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell! Today I'm sharing my review of the book - and don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post!
While Beauty Slept
Author: Elizabeth Blackwell
Release Date: November 4, 2014 (paperback)
Publisher: Berkley Trade
The Truth is No Fairy Tale.
I am not the sort of person about whom stories are told. Those of humble birth suffer their heartbreaks and celebrate their triumphs unnoticed by the bards, leaving no trace in the fables of their time....
And so begins Elise Dalriss's story
When she hears her great-granddaughter recount a tale about a beautiful princess awakened by a handsome prince, it pushes open a door to the past, a door Elise has long kept locked. For Elise was the companion to the real princess who slumbered - and she is the only one left who knows the truth of what happened so many years ago.
As the memories start to unfold, Elise is plunged back in to the magnificent world behind the opulent palace walls. Fleeing a hardscrabble existence and personal tragedy, she builds a new life for herself as a servant to the royal family and quickly rises within the castle hierarchy. As Elise proves herself a loyal confidante, she is drawn into the lives of an extraordinary cast of women: a beautiful queen who wakes each morning with tears on her pillow, an elderly spinster who in heartache shuts herself away, a princess who yearns to be free, and the ambitious and frightening sister who cannot accept the fact that she will never rule. Elise has guarded their secrets - and her own - for a lifetime. While Beauty Sleeps is her story.
In this rich and compelling novel of love and terror, friendship and fate, we are introduced to a heroine of extraordinary determination - the true heart of a legend - who reveals what it really takes to reach happily ever after.
While Beauty Slept is the beautiful and tragic fairy tale reimagining of Sleeping Beauty. The novel follows main character Elise - now an old woman - as she tells her great-granddaughter what really happened behind the story of Sleeping Beauty. Elise should know it well - she was the princess' companion when everything happened. The novel is Elise's story - of her life before and while at court, the lives of several powerful women, and the secrets of the princess herself - and what really happened during that fateful time.
I'm rarely at a loss for words while writing a review, but this book has left me completely speechless. Nothing I write will do this novel the justice it deserves, but I'll do my best to share my thoughts and opinions. Where to start? The entire book is magical. I was hooked from the very first line and I didn't quit reading until I had literally read the entire thing - which happened to be all at one time. The cast of characters that we meet in the story is unusual - a haphazard mix of the poor and the incredibly wealthy, a blend of men and women who search for happiness but remain lost, while others find exactly what they were looking for - even if it means not having the life they thought they wanted. Each character in the story - mostly the secondary ones - have distinct personalities and quirks that make them unique. The author wrote about each one in such a personal way that I felt as if I saw them - knew them - even if it wasn't more than an acquaintance. I don't even know how to describe Elise along with the other major characters in the book. Elise is determined to make something out of her life by working as a servant in the castle. She makes her way there and eventually starts moving up the hierarchy. She's humble, smart, and devoted - to her mother and later to the princess and the other women at court she becomes a confident to. Elise matures completely throughout the span of the story - in the beginning of her tale, she is a mere girl, but by the end she is an old woman telling her story to her great-granddaughter. Elise grows and matures in all ways - emotionally, physically, mentally, and any other way possible. I loved watching her character grow and expand throughout the story.
The plot of the novel is phenomenal. It's said to be a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale, but it's so much more than that. It's a story of love, loss, grief, hope, dark secrets, fate, and friendship - just to name some of the themes that run throughout it's pages. Almost all readers know at least the basics of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale, so parts of novel do match up with the story we've known for so long. I liked it when the two synched up because it made me remember the old adage that says in every lie (or legend) is a nugget of truth. Those words are more than appropriate for the story and I think it made the book just a bit easier to believe - that what happened in the story may have really happened. The writing was phenomenal. The author used just enough detail and imagery to make me jump inside her world, but she didn't overdo it. There weren't overdone descriptions or flashy imagery that could mess up a story and the reader's experience. It was written with a simple beauty and a natural flow that carries the reader away on the journey with Elise without even realizing that it happened. The simplicity of the imagery and details only enhanced my reading of the book. It had a perfect balance of the two that kept the readers fully engrossed in the story without overstimulating their senses. As I mentioned above, I absolutely loved every aspect of this book. Every. Single. One. I can't find a bad thing to say about it at all. I got so caught up in the story and was so far into the world the author created, that I had major visceral reactions to situations that happen. I don't normally react so strongly to a book - very rarely do I actually cry or get so mad that I don't want to read anymore. When I come across a novel that can get that kind of gut reaction out of me - I know that it's something amazing. And this one had me on an emotional roller coaster of feelings - I was laughing at times, sobbing during others, and so mad that I almost flung the book across the room and started ranting at the characters. Even after finishing the book, I couldn't get it out of my head. The characters, the story, the world that they lived in - I couldn't stop thinking about them or certain parts of the story line itself. This is one book I know for sure I will be re-reading time and again because of it's magnificent writing style and enchanting story. I can't recommend this book highly enough! Every reader should give it a shot - even if you're not a fairy tale type reader - because the quality of the writing and the story itself will sweep you off your feet. Fans of fantasy, fairy tales, retellings, and historical fiction need to read this book NOW. I swear you won't be disappointed.
One of the Best Books I've Ever Read - Definitely a New Favorite!!
Giveaway: (1) Finished paperback copy of While Beauty Slept - Open to US only!
* A HUGE thanks to the wonderful people at Berkley Trade for sending me a copy of the book for review and for sponsoring the giveaway! *