I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of fairy tale retellings. I loved the premise for Rhiannon Thomas’ A Wicked Thing, which focuses on what happens after Sleeping Beauty wakes to find that 100 years have passed and everyone she knew is dead – oh, and she’s supposed to marry the stranger who woke her up.
Aurora’s happily ever after doesn’t start when the prince kisses her. Rather, she’s bewildered by the fact that everyone believes he is her true love, since that was never a part of the story she knew. The story has been embellished over the 100 years she’s been sleeping, and now everyone expects her to marry the prince and help stabilize the kingdom, which has seen many, many kings since Aurora pricked her finger. The current king and queen essentially put her under house arrest, giving her no choice in the matter.
The royal family aren’t the only ones who want to use Aurora for their own ends. There’s a visiting prince who suggests another path for Aurora, but she’s not sure it’s the right one either. She meets a revolutionary boy who wants to overthrow the king (who is quite heavy-handed in his villainy) and use Aurora to help make that happen. And then there’s the evil witch who cursed her in the first place, who has her own designs on Aurora. She’s being pulled in so many directions and she’s not sure she can trust anyone – only herself.
Thomas does a good job portraying just how alone Aurora feels. No doubt many people who know the original or Disney story of Sleeping Beauty have wondered how Aurora must have handled the realization that her entire family and all her friends are dead, and Thomas provides a good explanation. There’s a little bit of magic beyond the initial curse here, too (the “wicked thing” reference in the title), that I felt was a little underdeveloped. Ultimately, the main conflict is what Aurora will decide to do – who will she side with? Is there anyone she can ally with who wants what is best for her, not just to use her to accomplish their own goals? Is it possible for her to have any true friends?
The path Aurora eventually chooses is the only right one, and I was satisfied by it, though it does leave things a bit open-ended. Luckily, there is a sequel! I wouldn’t call this an outstanding example of a fairy tale retelling, but it’s an intriguing one, it’s competently written, and it should satisfy most readers. I look forward to seeing where Thomas takes Aurora next.