One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale. Her family is long dead. Her “true love” is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.
As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.
‘After the End’ versions of fairytale retellings are the most interesting sort. Since most fairytales end in a wedding and a happily ever after, we choose to believe their lives are all sunshine and rainbows after that. But would it be, really? In a world of cruel people, believing that life would be fair and free is extreme naivete, and A Wicked Thing explores that kind of a dark retelling. We all know Aurora woke and married the prince who woke her, but what about how she felt waking up after a hundred years, seeing the passage of time marked in the changes of her surroundings, seeing a whole different set of people (her kingdom’s people don’t fall into sleep along with her in this retelling), and now being just a princess who woke up thanks to true love’s kiss?
Aurora was rendered beautifully in this book – a lonely girl who was cloistered away for her safety, never considered worth more than her beauty and her manners, never given a voice too, and always assumed to be in need of saving. Even after waking up, her life is the same as before, if not more complicated. She is a pawn in this new world, a trophy to secure the throne with. Everybody approaching her assumes what she wants, thinking they know her better than she does, thinking they only can think about her safety. Even the prince looks at her only as the princess of legend, initially. Surrounded by manipulative people, she is much more alone than before when she was locked away in a tower. Even asserting her freedom gets her in more trouble, until she is only presented with distasteful choices – and she comes into a forbidden power that could perhaps break her metaphorical shackles.
The story is good, and the plotlines weave so well with the characters, following their complexities. The pacing seems a bit slow, which combined with the dread atmosphere, doesn’t exactly make this a pleasant read. It is dark, it is sad, but it focuses on Aurora very well. You sense her disconnect with the past and present, her longing to be free from the cage of expectations and perfection. Her friendships with the people around her lend a fantastical view into the politics of the kingdom, how fragile the peace is, and how one person’s happy ending doesn’t mean the same for everybody. In short, I loved the retelling, and would definitely recommend it for someone seeking something dark and non-romantic.
Received a free galley from HarperTeen, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.