Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Sleeping Beauty Stories

I've been somewhat remiss in reporting on my reading lately, and somewhat remiss in reading, as I've been rather busy. But I did get some reading done last week, thanks to jury duty, so I can talk about a book!

I read Spindle's End by Robin McKinley, which is a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story. It's both a fleshing-out of the fairy tale, following a lot of the elements of the traditional Briar Rose version of the story, and a twist on the original story. For the most part, it comes across as a rather leisurely paced, character-focused story, except for the bookends. It starts with the birth of the princess and the journey of a young fairy from a remote province to the naming ceremony where the evil fairy casts the sleeping curse. The young fairy ends up going on the run with the infant princess, and the bulk of the story follows the princess growing up in a small village in a remote place in the home of her "aunt" and "cousin," and the friends she makes along the way. One of the fun aspects of this part of the story was seeing the way the various fairy godmother gifts (there are 21 in this story) manifest -- not necessarily all having the intentional result (the gifts mention things like her hair, teeth and lips, but no one thought to include anything about putting all that together in a way that's actually beautiful). Through much of the first part of the book, the main point of view is the young fairy raising the princess with her aunt. Then as the princess gets older, she becomes the main viewpoint character. The action really kicks in as her twenty-first birthday (upped from the traditional 16 for this story) approaches and destiny closes in. She has to figure out who she is and what she wants to do about it in order to face her fate.

I love this kind of fairy tale retelling, so I really enjoyed the book. I liked the different takes on the characters, and I didn't even mind the structure that left the middle of the book more focused on the mundane life, with just the hints of wrongness lurking in the background. This was shelved in the children's section of my library and is definitely child-safe, but I don't think it read at all like a children's book. My library sometimes makes some really odd shelving decisions, so I don't know if it was meant as a children's book or if some librarian decided that it involved fairy tales, so it was for children.

The funny thing for me was that it showed me why a book I wrote a few years ago didn't sell. I wrote my own take on the Sleeping Beauty story that was different in a lot of respects -- in mine, the fairies took the princess to our world, and it became a portal fantasy when the evil fairy's minions came looking for her in our world -- but there's a twist in this book that was the main plot point of mine, and there was a similar resolution. Anyone familiar with this book would have seen mine as derivative, even though I hadn't read it and came up with that idea on my own. I think I did a nice twist on that twist, but there were enough similarities that I can see why this book was passed on. I still love the characters and the story, but there were some other structural issues that need to be fixed, and I'm not sure how to fix them.

But no time for that now. I got revision suggestions on the last book from my agent, so now I have to get to work on that. It's going to require some re-structuring. I had reasons for doing things in the order I did, and she had good reasons for suggesting changing the order. I think my reasons might still work in a different order, but I'll have to figure it out.

And in other news, speaking of fairy tales, the Once Upon a Time people must have been peeking at my Christmas list because there was only about 30 seconds of Regina in this week's episode. Best! Episode! Ever! And as a bonus, they gave us Evil Warlord Bo Peep, which is just plain awesome.

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