Genres: Fairytale Retelling, Fantasy, Young Adult
Published by Random House on December 9th 2014
Also by this author: Of Beast and Beauty
Format: eBook (400 pages) • Source: Purchased
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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?
There is no salvation without sacrifice, no light without darkness, no triumph that doesn’t carry the seeds of its own destruction bouncing in its pocket.
GUYS holy crap! This story is just beyond words. But I am going to try to use some words anyways. The book started out very complicated and confusing. I was fascinated by the world that was being built, but you are definitely thrown right into the middle of the action. It starts with Aurora and her brother Jor as small children with their mother. It explains some of the curses on their lands and on them. Then it flashes forward 10 years and Aurora (disguised as her brother) is suddenly woken up by a guy named Niklaas and we learn everything else from there. I will admit that the first 100 pages or so were slow. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mindset at the time. Regardless, I kept feeling like I was going to be the black sheep and not end up liking this one. How could a book that moved so slowly for the first 100 pages ever get better? Well. It did. There was gradual world-building, which is nice, but there just wasn’t much action. I was admittedly kind of bored as the two traveled along and didn’t encounter anyone else. Once a few more characters and some action was introduced, I was hooked. I read 2/3 of the book in one night. I absolutely loved the gender-bending aspect of the book, where Aurora is pretending to be her brother so that she can inevitably save his life. It was hilarious when Niklaas suggested that she (or “he” at that moment) wear a dress as a disguise. She was a girl, pretending to be a boy, pretending to be a girl. The characters were amazingly well-developed. Aurora was fierce, brave, and fearless. (Do those three things all sound like the same thing? Oh well. She’s all three.) She put the well-being of everyone, especially her brother, above everything. Nikaas started off fairly unlikable, with his sexist remarks. He definitely develops over time and realizes that women are equally capable of doing everything men can do. A lot of it is blamed on his lifestyle and the way he was raised in his country. His character definitely had more under the surface than he originally let on, and Aurora was quick to realize it.
“Bravery isn’t the absence of fear but the willingness to stay the course in spite of it.”
I think what I liked the most about this story is how it really is reminiscent of fairy tales. The classic stories we know are filled with curses that need to be broken, some of which are ironic, interconnected, and involve sacrifice. This was definitely the case with the curses set on Niklaas and Aurora. I kept wondering how the hell they’d be able to overcome them and be together. The curses and their personalities combined to make some incredibly complex characters and events. I was ridiculously impressed with Jay’s ability to write them so well. I was so enthralled with this world and wrapped up in wondering what was going to happen next. That impressed feeling lasted through to the very end. You spent the whole book thinking one thing, when it turned out that the opposite was true. It was by no means a mystery, but the complexities of the world and the creatures in it was just so well-done. The ending was a bit sappy, but perfect in many ways. It obviously needed to end that way, so I can’t call bullshit on some of the feelings and actions of the characters.
“But that’s what searching for love is like. You keep pushing on, breaking and being broken, until you find the person you want to hold safe, the only one who knows how to keep you in one piece.”
The only thing scarier than feeling so alone is fearing you’ll always feel that way, that no one will ever see you for all the things you are, and the things you’re afraid to be, and the person you want so desperately to become.
Maybe this is what love is, being so afraid to lose someone that you’d rather face death than a world without them.
Overall, this book really did blow me away. I would love to give it a full five stars, but there are a couple things that did detract from a perfect rating. A book that I considered boring and uneventful for the first 30% or so can’t justifiably be considered perfect. I’m not sure if it was my mood while reading or the book itself, but I just did not really get into the story until a bit later. Another thing was the ending. It was a bit sappy and corny, which didn’t exactly line up with the personalities shown throughout the book. I’m very glad that it did end in that way, but it kind of detracted from the fearless tale of bravery that we saw throughout. I am SO happy I read this book and part of me does wish the sequel was happening. The other part of me feels good about where it ended and glad that it will likely remain a standalone.