If you had asked me throughout my entire childhood which fairy tale was my favorite, I would have unswervingly answered, “Sleeping Beauty.” Much of this answer was, of course, influenced by the Disney movies, and Sleeping Beauty had it all. Beautiful music, humor, a prince who not only had a name, but also a backbone as well as the ability to sing and dance, and a truly evil witch who turns into an awesome dragon!
A few years later, I was given a Child’s Book of Fairy Tales by my grandpa and it included slightly darker (and probably more original) versions of many of the fairy tales I’d grown up reading/watching/hearing. Sleeping Beauty was still a favorite, though other, non-Disney-fied stories began to attract my interest (Twelve Dancing Princesses, for example).
So I was more than a little excited to hear that Rooglewood’s next project was going to be Sleeping Beauty. I preordered a copy as soon as I could and it was a day of great joy when this beautiful tome arrived on my doorstep, carried by the winged feet of Hermes… er… Amazon.
A round of applause to each author and to Rooglewood Press for putting together yet another stellar product.
The Man on the Buckskin Horse
I must admit to being truly skeptical about this story. If anything could be more strange than Cinderella in space, it would have to be the Princess Aurora in the Wild West. How in the deep world was this feat going to be accomplished and still retain the elements of Sleeping Beauty… the fairy tale I loved best as a child? I love westerns, but still… would it not be like mixing mint ice cream and rainbow sherbet? Both good on their own…. but, um… together?
Of course, I needn’t have worried. Within the first page, Rachel Kovaciny had me completely hooked. Although the setting is vastly different than that of Sleeping Beauty, The Man on the Buckskin Horse retains all the elements and even the whimsical feel of the fairy tale it is based on.
Although there are no fairy godmothers, no wands, no curse, and no magic whatsoever… the story is undeniably Sleeping Beauty. Nobody could read this story and miss the connection. In the place of an evil witch, there is a greedy landlady. In the place of a fairy godmother, there is a midwife. And in the place of the prince, a lone gunman whose backstory is at once rich and heart wrenching.
I was completely swept away by this story, which turned out to be a gorgeous tapestry of two things I love: fairy tales and the wild west.
Guardian of Our Beauty
This story was absolutely charming. I was absolutely entranced by the characters and the story. From fierce little Palli who is so ready to do more for her nation than merely sleep, to the lowly Prince Neriya who is so kind and filled with perseverance, despite his inadequate training or understanding of the world, I fell in love.
This story reads like a blend of classic fairy tale and ancient fable/folk tale. Again, all the Sleeping Beauty components are there, but all with extremely interesting twists… and all are subtly under woven with a message about “The God Who Answers” in the midst of this fairy tale culture that prays and sacrifices to many gods… and is surprised to find that there is actually One who answers.
This one stole my heart completely. There was a dry, witty humor to the story that I highly appreciated. I was laughing in many places and even got a little choked up later on. Guardian of our Beauty was probably the one I was expecting the least from based on the short description, but the reality of the story won me over. Beautifully written with a truly unique twist on the classic tale, this tale also has a tinge of Eastern culture that makes it feel otherworldly and brand new.
The Ghost of Briardale
Of all the stories, this one had the most convoluted plot, and I was never sure where it was going to head next. It kept me turning the pages throughout all the twists and turns.
Enter a world that is purely epic fantasy… but time and a 500-year curse have diminished the belief in magic and dwarves and elves and curses. So, actually, it’s a world much like our own. But when Franz sees a ghost and is subsequently deemed insane and shipped off to Briardale, the insane asylum, he leaves everything he thought he knew about the world and enters into a world that is far more comfortable with the ideas of hideous swamp beasts and tiny kingdoms and evil curses and fairy godmothers.
This story was clearly Sleeping Beauty, but in the end nobody was really who you thought they would be. I enjoyed the way everything ended up with Franz, but would have liked a few more glimpses into the world of the Princess and a bit more resolution of her story… though I guess when it comes right down to it, she wasn’t really the main character, after all.
It is definitely important to note that this story was completely different than what I had expected from reading the description. Not in a bad way… but if you are expecting the story to revolve around a haunted modern-day insane asylum (which I was)… that’s not even remotely what this story is about. To be perfectly honest, this was my least favorite of the stories, though I’m not sure I could put my finger on why. It could have been the distance between what I expected and reality, or it may have been that I just didn’t connect with any of the characters the way I did in the other stories… but this one didn’t really reach down into my heart like the rest of the stories. I think in a collection like this you’re just always going to have a “favorite” and a “least favorite” and that’s not a commentary on the story or the author… just a commentary on a collection of vastly different stories and personal taste. This one may be YOUR favorite. And that’s one of the things I love most about these collections – there always seems to be something for everyone!
This was definitely the most true to the original telling of Sleeping Beauty. I very much enjoyed everything about this story. From the courageous prince Edmond – who doesn’t believe in true love or cursed princesses, but sets off on the quest anyway in hopes of taking his life back into his own hands if he survives, to the princess Arabella – who has been cursed to sleep for a century but has retained the ability to watch what is going on in the world through dreams and is aware of what is going on in the room round her (including the knowledge of her face getting dusty, shudder), to the loyal and steadfast Martin, to the somewhat off-her-rocker fairy godmother, to the villain (who I won’t spoil here)… the characters were definitely what made this story spring from the pages.
And there’s a dragon. And he’s an awesome, ferocious, beast of a dragon. I mean… dragon!
The beauty of this story, however, is the romance that develops between the sleeping princess and the skeptical prince. And the humor of the fairy godmother, because she’s fantastic.
Out of the Tomb
I have to be honest. This was my absolute FAVORITE of the five stories. And that’s saying something, because I really, really liked all of them. But this story.
Out of the Tomb had me turning the pages extra fast to find out what happened next. The last chapters had tears pouring down my face. The characters rose up out of the pages and became “real” – yes, like the Velveteen Rabbit.
I think my favorite part of this story was that it began at the ending. The traditional Sleeping Beauty story starts with a baby princess cursed to sleep for a hundred years and ends with her being woken up. Out of the Tomb starts with a tomb robber accidentally waking up a prince who has been held in a stasis field for 100 years, whom everybody thought was dead.
And then the adventure begins.
All the elements of the Sleeping Beauty story are there… the curse, the thirteen gifts (in the form of Virtue Names), the 100 year sleep, the thorns, the spindle… but they are so cleverly spun that I didn’t even recognize some of them at first (another reviewer pointed out the virtue names thing).
From the unlikely friendship to the incredibly well-defined world and culture of the Tephan people to the heartbreaking struggle that the main character deals with as she struggles between what she has always been and what the glimmer of hope the prince gives her about who she might become… this story is epic and beautiful. The pacing is perfect – gripping, intense, and yet not so fast that it doesn’t allow the story to unfold with a depth to the characters and the story and the themes that is just stunning in such a short story. I loved how she created the Tephan culture and unwrapped different aspects of it in such a perfect way that I never felt super confused or overwhelmed by information. I would love to spend whole novels in this galaxy (hopefully the author reads this review and continues writing stories in this universe!!!)
Overall, I can unreservedly give this collection Five Dragon Eggs.