What if Disney’s Sleeping Beauty never woke up?
Princess Aurora endures endless days of useless boredom in the surreal, post-apocalyptic confines of Thorn Castle, whose shellshocked inhabitants survive only due to gracious Queen Maleficent’s powers. Slowly the princess realizes that she is trapped within her own dreams, an alternate reality horribly twisted by the evil fairy after her dragon form wasn’t completely slain. Familiar characters from the film (and some intriguing new ones) help Aurora in her struggles to awaken and save her kingdom, but her greatest enemy is her own overwhelming despair. Greatly improving upon A Whole New World (2015), the first in the Disney-authorized series, this story starts after the movie’s end, fleshing out its tissue-thin archetypes into likable (if fallible) personalities: the fairies become more otherworldly, the villain more magnificently evil, and the prince downright endearing in his unflagging cheerfulness and dogged devotion. Since nearly the entire narrative occurs in Aurora’s subconscious, her character is the most deeply explored—in a daringly faithful depiction of chronic depression, with all the loneliness, listlessness, and self-loathing that entails. Hundreds of pages of Aurora’s pain and passive futility may be even harder to read than the brief, grisly interludes of Maleficent’s viciousness, but the dreary slog is redeemed once the princess finally reclaims the intelligence, courage, and compassion that are her true birthright.
A surprising and clever twist on a beloved tale. (Fantasy. 13-18)