Review: Awaken

Though I wasn't sure what to expect from Camille Peters' new fairy tale book after reading the last one, I am pleased to say that Awaken is now my favorite book in The Kingdom Chronicles along with Identity. It may be no coincidence that these two books are connected by a recurring character, Archer, who was the brother of the protagonist in Identity and the love interest of the protagonist in Awaken. This is a creative retelling of "Sleeping Beauty" that focuses on a specific aspect of the 1959 Disney adaptation rather than anything from the original fairy tale. It never ceases to amaze me how many creative ways authors have found to retell this story in a way that allows the sleeping princess to be more active while remaining true to the heart of the original.

Awaken by Camille Peters

The heroine from Awaken suffers from a bad case of amnesia. She refers to herself as Primrose even though she knows it isn't her real name. When she first encounters Archer in the woods and forgets him the next day, I got the impression the book would turn into a fairy tale version of 50 First Dates, but the cursed maiden struggles more to remember her past than her present, so she quickly grows to become familiar with him. Primrose lives in a cottage with three peasant women who she refers to as her aunts, which is a blatant Disney reference. In the Disney version of "Sleeping Beauty," Princess Aurora is raised to believe that she was born a peasant and that her beloved Prince Phillip is a peasant as well. This misunderstanding causes distress for both of them when they learn that they are in an arranged royal marriage, unaware that the arrangement is with each other. Awaken explores that moment of distress by making Archer prejudiced against royals without knowing that the woman he has fallen in love with is one of them.

The focus on class struggle is a unique and creative way to explore the "Sleeping Beauty" story that I have never seen outside of the Disney movie, where it became a moot point at the end. The metaphor of awakening from inner prejudice fits well into today's culture of "wokism" of accepting each other's differences and struggles. When Primrose recovers her memories as Princess Reve, she realizes that she was not a very good person. She decides to use her experiences living in the woods with her aunts to improve her character so she can be worthy of Archer's affections. Archer must also put aside his preconceived notions of royalty, especially toward his sister, who married a prince against his wishes in an earlier book from this series. Awaken is a beautiful story of learning to forgive people for their past mistakes and love them for who they are in the present.

The similarities to the "Sleeping Beauty" story mostly end with the Disney references. There are no fairies in this version, and the curse was not cast by an angry party guest who wasn't invited to Reve's christening. Instead, the climax ties into the other books from the Kingdom Chronicles series by making Reve's mother the evil queen who caused all of the fairy tale-related problems that she and her siblings faced in past and future books. This simplifies the series by giving it a common villain but allows little time to understand the villain's motivations in this book or to give her a satisfying ending. Like all the other books in this series, the primary focus is love overcoming obstacles as opposed to good vs. evil. The love story between Reve and Archer is charming, though develop feelings for each other a bit fast.

Overall, Awaken is a sweet and pleasant retelling of "Sleeping Beauty" that presents the beloved fairy tale in an original and creative way. The journey for Reve to recover her memories will be sure to keep readers on the edge of their seat as they wonder what she would remember next. Her romance with Archer translates well to modern society and class struggles. Reve never feels like a helpless damsel in distress despite her inability to take a walk in her own forest without getting lost. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys love stories or wants to discover a fresh take on "Sleeping Beauty."

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