Once Upon A Dream was going to be a book I passed on. Sleeping Beauty is my favorite princess, but I’ve read several retellings, and, honestly, I wasn’t impressed by the first book in this series (A Whole New World). I’m so glad I gave it a chance because this book was so much more than I expected. Characters, plot, and tone all added up to a pretty fierce read.
What if the sleeping beauty never woke up? Once Upon a Dream marks the second book in a new YA line that reimagines classic Disney stories in surprising new ways.
It should be simple–a dragon defeated, a slumbering maiden, a prince poised to wake her. But when said prince falls asleep as soon as his lips meet the princess’s, it is clear that this fairy tale is far from over.
With a desperate fairy’s last curse infiltrating her mind, Princess Aurora will have to navigate a dangerous and magical landscape deep in the depths of her dreams. Soon she stumbles upon Phillip, a charming prince eager to join her quest. But with Maleficent’s agents following her every move, Aurora struggles to discover who her true allies are, and moreover, who she truly is. Time is running out. Will the sleeping beauty be able to wake herself up?
I am most impressed by the presentation of Aurora in this book because she really comes into her own, but not before she battles a few personal demons that added real depth to her journey. Questions of personal identity plague her throughout the story, which makes her relevant to the YA audience and manages to make her stand out in the sea of would-be revamped princesses that have flooded the YA book scene the last few years. Prince Phillip, on the other hand, fell a little flat for me. Don’t get me wrong – he is definitely the prince you want for a journey like this and he is swoon-worthy in a generic sense, but except for a few hilarious moments that show his vulnerable side, he feels like he could be replaced by Eric or Beast or Prince Charming. I wanted him to really shine because he has always been my favorite, but I understand why he played second string.
I thought the first third of the book was a little draggy, and it felt overlong as a whole, but the plot was otherwise pretty awesome. The conflicts are unexpected and innovative and I didn’t feel like I was slogging through a too familiar story – this was almost all new to me, and I think it will be a nice surprise to Sleeping Beauty fans, particularly those who have read other reimaginings of this story and think they know exactly how this book is going to go down.
My biggest complaints with the first book of the series were that it felt too derivative of the film and it read like a middle school read rather than a YA book. Once Upon A Dream avoids both of those pitfalls, and while it is completely appropriate for middle school readers, the darker tone and the deeper themes are probably going to be most appreciated by grades 9+ and adult readers of YA. I’m adding it to my high school classroom library wish list and recommending it to fans of a books like Cinder, Stitching Snow, and Princess of Thorns. I’m also looking forward to more books in this series. Crack the whip, Disney – I want a Belle to rival this Aurora!
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.