Of all the stories of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, The Sleeping Beauty is probably the most epic. I know, epic and fairy tale aren’t usually in the same sentence. Epic and romance aren’t except in cases like Romeo and Juliet. And, frankly, this series tends to be more down-to-earth even at its wildest. So when I say “epic,” I mean that I cannot even begin to count the number of fairy tales that are named, referred to, hinted at, or otherwise indicated in this book.
There’s the obvious ones, of course. Sleeping Beauty is in the title, Snow White shows up early on. But then things get strange when you throw in the tale of Siegfried and the Ring Cycle. Gods in general muddle things up, and I am not nearly as familiar with the Norse as I am with others. In fact, this particular book is where I picked up a lot of what I know about Norse mythology outside the gods!
The two primary characters in The Sleeping Beauty are Godmother Lily and Prince Siegfried. Lily is rather different from the Godmothers we’ve encountered before because not only is she half Fae, but she is responsible for only one Kingdom. She was born and raised to this task though, because Eltaria possesses mines of silver, gold, and gemstones and several greedy neighbors. Thus, Lily has been Eltaria’s Godmother for some three hundred years already, and it seems to be a neverending trial.
So when she’s trying to get the Princess Rosamund back to the Palace where she belongs, and two stray Princes show up each hoping to win her for themselves, it’s just the beginning of a story that will surely satisfy the Tradition for years to come.
Of course, another interesting bit about The Sleeping Beauty is that, of all the tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, it alone has a sequel. “A Tangled Web” is one of the three novellas in Harvest Moon, which I touched on a while back when rereading “Cast in Moonlight” as a prequel to Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra. This is one of the two other entries in the book, and the only other one I’m likely to reread.
As you might have guessed from his presence outside the Norse-like kingdoms, Siegfried does not wake the maiden sleeping in a ring of fire. That falls to a different man, who marries her quite happily. “A Tangled Web” finds the two relaxing in a Grecian region…when a god drives a chariot up out of the earth and kidnaps the Valkyrie.
I have to say, I feel like this is the most PG rated retelling of Olympian myth I’ve seen since Disney’s Hercules. They don’t even use the words “balls” or “penis” or “genitals.” It is probably the most times I’ve ever seen the word “goolies” used in a single piece of writing. It’s also a much kinder rendition of the Greek gods than I’ve seen…probably kinder than they deserve. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading about mythology almost as much as I do fairy tales, but there’s a lot of fucked up shit in it, and I will happily swear to emphasize how messed up it gets.
In the end, this is a nice novella that brings about a bit more closure to characters from The Sleeping Beauty, being only about a third as long as the normal books. It also allows Lackey to go into further detail on how you can have both the Tradition and gods in the same world. There’s one more entry in this series, and then I can dive into some of my new books. Well, new to me. Only two of them are actually new, and one of those is a Book of the Month selection that just arrived today.