Review: Dagger's Sleep

Dagger's Sleep by Tricia Mingerink is the last book I had left to read from National Tell a Fairy Tale Day. It's the first in a series called Beyond the Tales, which seems to be similar to Aya Ling's Reversed Retellings in that they both contain gender-bent adaptations of popular fairy tales. Like Aya Ling's The Cursed PrinceDagger's Sleep is a gender-bent retelling of "Sleeping Beauty." Aside from the basic premise, the two books are different enough to enjoy separately. Dagger's Sleep is a more progressive take on the classic fairy tale. The setting is loosely Native American and incorporates some cultural and religious undertones. It was quite unique for a "Sleeping Beauty" retelling and uses some less popular aspects of the story, such as the 100 year passage of time.

The best way I can describe Dagger's Sleep is that it felt like a cross between Charles Perrault's "Sleeping Beauty" and Disney's Pocahontas. Princess Rosanna lives in a land that resembles something between a Native American village and a medieval kingdom. She is a nature child who enjoys riding her canoe around the riverbend with her friend Isi. Her life is flipped upside-down when a messenger named Daemyn arrives to tell her that she is the fabled cursebreaker who is destined to wake the sleeping High Prince Alexander from his century-old curse. The journey won't be easy. Her kingdom has many enemies who don't want the prince to wake up and end the war for ownership between its two provinces. Rosanna's family, friends, and guards must do everything in their power to protect her and make sure she is successful in her quest to awaken the prince and end the war.

The book alternates between the present time and 100 years earlier when the prince went on his own journey to see if he could get the fae to lift the curse that would cause him to prick his finger on his dagger on his 21st birthday and sleep for 100 years. At first, I didn't think these chapters added much to the story, possibly because I've read so many other retellings of "Sleeping Beauty" where the cursed princess tries to convince the fae to lift the curse. However, when I got about halfway through the book, I understood that the flashback sequences were really about the prince's servant Jadon teaching him humility. The story became significantly more interesting after that, but the first half felt like it was mostly filler, alternating between Rosanna' and Alex's journeys through various parts of the kingdom to achieve their goals. This book would probably appeal more to environmentalists who enjoy lush descriptions of natural environments.

Most "Sleeping Beauty" adaptations avoid the 100 year gap because it eliminates the possibility for romance to blossom between the two main love interests before one of them falls asleep. This book resolved that by giving Rosanna a different love interest than the prince. In fact, she doesn't even wake Alexander with a kiss, something that made this version truly unique. I appreciated that Tricia Mingerink got so creative with her interpretation of the story, but I didn't find the romance as engaging as I would have liked. Rosanna was so busy trying to prevent a war for most of the book that it seemed like she didn't have time to think about romance until the end. Much like Pocahontas, she was a very independent person who never needed someone else to make her life fulfilling. In fact, Rosanna is one of the most progressive heroines I've ever seen in a "Sleeping Beauty" adaptation, which is quite telling on the possibilities to modernize even the ultimate "damsel in distress" story.

Overall, Dagger's Sleep is one of the most creative retellings of "Sleeping Beauty" I've ever read. It wasn't my favorite due to the war background and underplayed romance, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Rosanna is a terrific modern-day princess who knows how to take care of herself and go on her own adventures. The Native American elements added a unique cultural perspective to the story that made it feel fresh. Even though some of the flashbacks felt unnecessary, all the loose ends were tied together by the end. The love interest was a fascinatingly complex character, and it was a pleasure learn his secrets. I would recommend this book to anyone who disliked elements of the original "Sleeping Beauty" and wants a more modern take on the classic fairy tale.


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