Brand new review: Once Upon A Dream by Liz Braswell

By Ekta R. Garg

March 16, 2016

Genre: Young adult fiction

Rated: Bookmark it!

What if Sleeping Beauty didn’t wake up? What if Maleficent, the evil fairy, manages to keep her under a spell? What would cause such a twist? And what happens next? Disney author Liz Braswell offers young adult readers a solid story filled with surprising depth in Once Upon A Dream.

At Aurora’s christening an evil fairy, Maleficent, curses the newborn princess: when she turns 16, she’ll prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. To counteract Maleficent’s spell, one of the good fairies in attendance amends it: instead of dying Aurora, and everyone else in the entire kingdom, will slip into a deep sleep. Love’s true kiss will wake her up and save her and the kingdom.

In an effort to keep their daughter safe, the king and queen order the destruction of all spinning wheels. They also charge the good fairies with Aurora’s safekeeping, and she grows up in the woods thinking she’s living with three aunts. Unfortunately the fairies can’t keep Aurora safe. On her sixteenth birthday, when they escort her to the castle for an arranged marriage and to meet her parents for the first time, Maleficent leads Aurora to the lone spinning wheel in existence. Aurora pricks her finger and falls into a deep sleep.

Distressed, the fairies find Prince Phillip and help him slay Maleficent when she turns into a dragon. They think everything will get solved the minute Phillip finds Aurora. He rushes to her side, touches his lips to hers…and then falls asleep as well.

The entire scenario goes awry. Despite the fact that Maleficent is technically dead, a surprise addendum to the curse she cast so many years ago keeps her alive in Aurora’s dreams. Through those dreams she convinces Aurora of a different reality—that the king and queen never loved Aurora, that they only wanted a male heir, and that Maleficent alone cares for Aurora and can protect her from the mysterious blight that has overtaken the land outside the castle.

Aurora spends her days lounging around the castle and planning grand monthly balls. She adores Maleficent and abides by the status quo. But bit by bit Aurora’s world comes apart. She starts asking questions after certain confusing circumstances, and the answers confuse her even more. Aurora starts to understand what’s actually happening, and she will need to defeat a myriad of forces—including, in some ways, herself—if she’s to save everyone and finally wake up.

In her second book for Disney, author Liz Braswell comes up with a winner. As with her first book, A Whole New World, Braswell uses the original Disney film as the foundation for her story. She preserves the film’s original features while expanding on them and adding more details of her own.

The most successful components come in the depth Braswell brings to Aurora. She creates a protagonist within the confines of the original story, particularly within the strictures of the stereotype of a princess who spends her time twirling and singing and needs rescuing from her enemies because she can’t defend herself. Braswell manages to toe that line and then step daintily over it by offering a concrete back story for Aurora and then giving her guts.

The result is a book that feels contemporary and fresh while still balancing the time period of Aurora’s story. Also, Braswell is clearly enjoying herself; readers will grin when they find a subtle nod to other Disney princesses in a scene where Aurora spends time exploring a new wardrobe. Braswell’s first book didn’t quite make the grade. She definitely earns back any marks lost and more for this second novel.

I recommend readers Bookmark Once Upon A Dream.

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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