An innovative take on “Sleeping Beauty,” this first novel in a two-book arc weaves the tale of polar-opposite half sisters facing a dark threat from a mysteriously diabolical faerie queen.
Although headstrong Isabelle, the king’s illegitimate daughter, is blind and beautiful princess Aurora cannot speak and has no sense of touch, the two white girls share a close, complicated relationship. After Aurora pricks her finger on a spindle, Isabelle must travel widely, seeking a prince to wake her sister and to ally two kingdoms against Malfleur and her ominous army. Recognizable fairy-tale references blend with radical departures (christening faeries cruelly “tithe” senses such as sight and speech in exchange for gifts of beauty and grace). This present-tense narrative unfolds through alternating points of view (including Isabelle’s, Aurora’s, Malfleur’s, and that of Malfleur’s mysterious twin, Belcoeur), depicting complex characters and thorny sibling relationships within an equally complex plot. Inventing a distinctively gritty netherworld that weaves reality with shimmering magic and smoky-mirrored illusions, Hillyer’s writing is freshly vivid. Unfortunately, plotting in the second part of the book spins out of control, entangling readers in a web of too many unresolved questions (who is Isabelle’s mother, what does Malfleur really want, which romantic partnerships will be fulfilled?), and the book ends abruptly, without closure.
An innovative take on magic and the price of transformation, this will tempt readers to reach for Book 2—and expect some answers. (Fantasy. 14 & up)