The Sleeping Beauty is the latest in Lackey’s Five Hundred Kingdoms series. The Five Hundred Kingdoms are bound by The Tradition, a force that can and does manipulate people into various fairy tale roles, good and bad. In this instance, Princess Rosa’s mother, Queen Celeste died, leaving a grieving king who has spent years fighting off attempts by bordering armies to take the throne of this small, but very rich kingdom of Eltaria.
Godmother Lily and The Tradition both recognize the opening the Queen’s death leaves for an Evil Stepmother, and indeed, women have already begun arriving. Lily has been Godmother for several hundred years, and has learned to watch for patterns that could attract the attention of The Tradition, and also to subtly manipulate it. Lily attempts to check The Tradition and with the help of the King (who married a lowly, yet clever, shepherdess), ensconces herself as his cold and distant new wife, Sable.
Lily’s disguise fools an unhappy Rosa and the castle workers, but when a Huntsman appears in the stables, he upsets the applecart. Rosa feels threatened, by him, and despite Lily’s machinations, she is chased into the woods and becomes lost. Following Tradition, she is found by a group of dwarves, but these dwarves are mining illegally and they trick Rosa into becoming their slave. She is chained to the house to cook and clean for them. She is eventually found with help of the Godmother’s Magic Mirror.
To rescue Rosa, Lily follows the Traditional Path of Beauty Asleep to free her, with some slight modifications. Unfortunately, a Hero appears. Siegfried has been traveling from the North to escape his Traditional Path that will lead to what his bird companion calls his DOOM! His parents are demigods, AND twins who fell in love. A sleeping, armored maiden on a bier is stalking him. She is his aunt, whom he is destined to marry and continue the family curse of LOVE! DEATH! DOOM! GLORY! No matter where he goes she soon follows. When he spies Rosa, he senses a chance to escape his DOOM! and tries to kiss Rosa.
From the other side of the forest, another Traditional Prince appears, trying to change HIS life. Leopold’s Path of Handsome, Loveable, Scamp of a Younger Brother forced him from his home. His older, ordinary, yet completely capable older brother with an ordinary wife and ordinary kids was being overshadowed, so in order for his rule to succeed, Leopold had to go. Since then, Leopold has been traveling and relying on his skill at cards to pay his way. The temptation of a sleeping princess was too much for Leopold to ignore and he and Siegfried come to blows over Rosa. Lily manages to awaken Rosa and in her true form as the Godmother, returns Rosa to her Kingdom amid great fanfare and to Sable’s dismay.
Since this is The Tradition, Rosa is soon in need of a husband to help her rule the Kingdom and Godmother Lily reveals her identity as Sable to Rose. Now they can work together to devise a way to find a new king and also permanently stave off attacks. Princes are invited from all over to compete for Rosa’s hand, and their attendance provides hostages to dissuade anyone who feels the urge to start another war. Siegfried and Leopold decide to take part in the competition, quickly becoming allies and friends, turning another Traditional trope on its head. Over the course of the competition, various Traditions play out, and more than one character finds love in an unexpected place.
While writing this review, I realized that The Sleeping Beauty was less about Rosa and trying to save her than it was about Lily and her determination to save the Kingdom she loves and has served for so long. I found Lily’s methods of bending the Tradition to be very interesting and creative. While this wasn’t a “funny” book, there was much humor in the way that The Tradition manifested, especially in the characters and in the competition for Rosa’s hand. I also liked the way Lackey brought various cultural tales and archetypes together cohesively, something the author has done in at least one other series. This isn’t my first Five Hundred Kingdoms story, but it is definitely one of my favorites.
This book is published by Harlequin Luna and is available at eHarlequin, Sony Bookstore, Amazon, Borders, and other places you buy books. The version I reviewed was received from NetGalley, although I have since purchased my own copy.