Jolly Fish Press, 2016
Princess Elena has lived all her life under the looming shadow of the curse placed on her as a baby by her evil sorceress aunt. On her fast-approaching eighteenth birthday, she will fall into a dreamless sleep for a hundred years. She’s pursued every avenue of spellbreaking research she could find before resigning herself to wait out her remaining days of wakefulness as privately as possibly, minimizing the emotional casualties when the inevitable comes. Not everyone believes the curse to be incurable, however, and a certain opportunistic prince has his sights set on the credit for her rescue. Forced to accept additional security measures to keep such vultures at bay, Elena ends up spending more time than she’d planned with her childhood acquaintance and now bodyguard, Cam. The better they get to know each other, the harder it is to make peace with their imminent separation by sleep and time, until Elena must reopen her spellbooks, and her willingness to hope.
The identical tone of unremitting sarcasm across all character voices, dry yet never risking a moment of understatement, makes the conversations feel formulaic after a while and undercuts the moments of sincerity.
Elena and Cam are an appealing couple, both dignified and understandably reserved characters who allow themselves to lean on each other with all the hesitation their situation calls for, and with all the inevitability of love. The emphasis on the pair of them learning to work together rather than against each other in misguided efforts to keep each other safe is a particularly refreshing and romantic departure from fairytale tradition. This is not a modernized retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story so much as it is a story that borrows the sleeping curse set piece of Sleeping Beauty as its inspiration, a difference which works entirely in its favor. Rather than try to dress up the same old damsel story in distracting new accessories, Dreamless takes possibly the most passive of the classic fairytale princesses and satisfyingly remakes the story around her chance to fight against her impending helplessness. This may be the subtlest jab it makes at its fairytale source material, amid its lovable ghosts and cowardly princes, but it’s the sharpest, the one that lets all the rest fall into place.
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