Review: The Awakened Prince

For my next book review, I was planning to cover The Silent Prince by C.J. Brightly, a gender-bent retelling of "The Little Mermaid" that was released on Black Friday, but I unexpectedly received an ARC for The Awakened Prince by Alora Carter, another book from the Once Upon a Prince series that I had not read yet. Based on the title, I was hoping this would be a gender-bent adaptation of "Sleeping Beauty." Instead, it was a direct retelling of the Disney movie from the prince's perspective that adds very little to the original story. Though some of the names and lore were altered to avoid copyright issues, I could see that the author was inspired mainly by the most popular version of the story and took very little liberty with the many other fairy tale adaptations out there. The book provides everything a reader would expect from a fairy tale retelling--romance, fantasy, and a bit of medieval history with nothing new or insightful to offer.

Though Prince Killian takes on the same role as Prince Phillip from the Disney movie, he differs in personality. He lacks confidence in himself and his ability to someday lead his kingdom, believing that his father prefers his best friend, Phineas, over himself as the future king. Instead of a cheeky horse named Samson, Killian has a magic wolf companion named Jax, whom he is able to communicate with telepathically. Jax was the most interesting character in this book with everyone else being watered-down counterparts of characters from the animated Disney film. Raela, the lost princess, is very similar to Aurora--a graceful, dreamy beauty raised by three fairies in the woods who lead her to believe they were her aunts for most of her life. There is a language barrier between Killian and Raela when they first meet, but this is overcome rather quickly thanks to Jax's translations and the fact that Killian is so captivated by Raela's beauty that he isn't all that interested in what she has to say. That might be the reason this book falls short in the romance department.

While it is common for fairy tales to have love at first sight, novels give the audience a look at the inner workings of the characters' minds, deepening even the most superficial romances. This book fails to do so by portraying Killian as so lovesick with Raela despite not speaking the same language that he is willing to give up his throne and his arranged marriage to a mysterious long-lost princess just to be with her. Yet, we have no idea what they have in common or what they see in each other aside from basic attraction. While this is exactly what happens in the Disney movie, I would expect more from a novel, even one that is a direct novelization of the film, which this is not. There seemed to be little reason to root for them to get together, even after Raela's sleeping curse set in, which was not foreshadowed in the book and felt like it was simply going through the motions of the fairy tale it was based on.

To be fair, The Awakened Prince did have some decent world-building. It was not a direct copy of the kingdom where the Disney movie took place. This is a world with other cultures, languages, talking animals, and lots of dark magic. Killian's lack of confidence in himself was caused by a traumatic incident from his childhood in which he brought him a cursed knife that killed his mother, making cursed objects more commonplace in this world than in other versions of the fairy tale. The magical bond that allows him to communicate with his wolf companion is an intriguing addition to the story. In addition, the book does something a little bit different and unexpected with one of the three fairies that raised Raela. It introduces the villain in an unexpected way but fails to give her a unique personality and motivation outside of the original fairy tale. Overall, this story does a much better job of developing the setting than it does with the characters.

In The Awakened Prince, readers are taken on a familiar journey through a reimagined world inspired by the classic tale of "Sleeping Beauty." However, the story falls short of delivering a fresh perspective, heavily relying on the well-known Disney adaptation. Though the book introduces intriguing elements such as the protagonist's insecurities and a magical bond with his wolf companion, it struggles to breathe new life into the romance and character dynamics. Despite its commendable world-building, the novel's portrayal of the romance lacks depth, overlooking the opportunity to delve into the inner complexities of the characters' emotions and connections. For more imaginative retellings of "Sleeping Beauty," I recommend The Rose and the Briar by J.M. Stengl or Dreamer of Briarfell by Lucy Tempest.


Emma said…
If your looking for a more original retelling of Sleeping Beauty I would recommend To Defy a Dream by Mary Mecham. It's part of the Shattered Tales series. It features a dream world created by an evil jinni, a second chance forbidden romance, and a sinister fairy godmother.
Lisa Dawn said…
Thank you for the recommendation. I have read a few of her other books.

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