Hardcover, 337 pages
Published February 24th 2015 by HarperTeen
I read this book quite a while ago but such is the strength of the tale it told that the story has lingered in my mind. We all know Sleeping Beauty’s tale. Cursed by the bad fairy to prick her finger on a spindle on her 16th birthday, she sleeps until love’s true kiss (dressed as a prince, no less) wakes her.
Princess Aurora is indeed awoken by a prince’s kiss but whether he is her true love is another matter. She wakes in a future where she knows no one and nothing is familiar. Her family whom she saw only the night before (or so it feels to her) are dead and gone to dust; the castle she lived in has been renovated, save for the tower she slumbered in, so she recognizes nothing. She finds out that trying to kiss her awake has become something of a rite of passage for princes all over the world–they come to her bedside to try and kiss her awake and failing to do so, they leave, knowing that at least they tried.
The fairytale often dismisses the emotions Aurora must have felt when she woke and realized that everyone she knew and loved is gone. Rhiannon Thomas does not; she focuses with a great deal of delicacy and detail on how Aurora feels when she wakes up after a strange man kisses her and how lost she feels when she is immediately swept up in a fairytale she doesn’t remember wanting to be a part of. She neither knows nor, in the beginning, likes the boy she finds herself engaged to; his mother keeps trying to shove her into a position she is not she fits and his father is simmering with a barely repressed violence.
Aurora escapes the suffocating grip of the castle during the nights and finds release from expectations in a bar and another boy whom she finds fascinating and who opens her eyes to their world and the seething political chaos it is about to be submerged in.
Another prince vies for her attention–a rival prince from another country tries to tempt her away from the one who kissed her awake.
Aurora, still suffering from culture shock, gingerly tries to find her footing in this strange new world she has woken up in. She realizes that none of the men want her but that they all see her as a way to get something else. One wants to use her as a weapon, another as a way to pacify the people, and the other? Well, his motives are not that difficult to decipher.
A Wicked Thing is a slim book but it packs an enormous amount in its pages. I found the story to be almost uncomfortable as the narrative made me strip away the veneer of romance Disney imbues the fairy tale with. In Aurora, I found not a princess but a bewildered young girl who does not know how to handle her grief or the manipulations of people who seem to see her as a figurehead, an object, they can use as they see fit.
I enjoyed her journey to agency and I loved seeing how she grasped whatever power came to her and held it tightly. The romance is my favourite because it is so complicated and Aurora’s actions at the end are the only way the story could have satisfactorily gone. I can’t wait to read the sequel to see how Aurora grows and to see where she goes with her new found ideas and voice.
A Wicked Thing is a retelling for the modern reader. One who prefers her princesses with bite and power. Strongly recommended.