It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.
Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.
I never actually read the author’s previous book despite it being nominated and winning many awards because I never felt it was my thing. I also didn’t bother to read much about the premise of this book due to similar apprehensions, but reading a gushing review by my fellow awesome blogger Misty convinced me that maybe I should give this a try. And this turned out to be so much fun.
I usually love retellings but more on the mythological side, because I’m not that fond of the usual European fairytales. And I hardly remember anything about Sleeping Beauty but that didn’t hamper my enjoyment of this story. This story is an ode to classic fairytales with a modern twist, when the princesses don’t need a charming prince to save them because they are perfectly capable of saving themselves. In this way, it recognizes the sexist undertones of the classics and subverts them to create a more progressive version of those age old tales that we love. The author does a seamless blending of modern day technology and a medieval world full of rigid gender roles, peppering the story with witty and biting dialogue, fast pacing which kept me so engaged that I didn’t wanna put it down at all, and an excellent audiobook narration which enriched my experience. The way Amy does the various accents as well as voices, her sarcastic tone and just her overall way of telling the story was super entertaining.
Zinnia is such a fascinating protagonist. Having a terminal condition, she has been prepared to die before turning 22 as long as she can remember but when she gets the opportunity for an adventure, she takes it all in with both her hands. She is brave and witty, not easily ruffled by unexpected situations, and is smart enough to put her folklore degree to good use when she finds herself in a fairytale world. She is ably supported by her childhood best friend Charm who is her rock and ready to send out PowerPoint presentations to help her out despite sounding freaked out and is determined to find a cure for Zin’s condition. Their friendship is goals and I loved how it evolved towards the end of the book.
And Primrose is the princess in the fairytale story who is cursed to become the Sleeping Beauty but is not ready to accept it. I loved the depiction of her character, especially through the audio because it showed both her vulnerable as well as slightly prideful sides. Together with Zin, Charm and a few other surprise characters, she takes her destiny into her own hands and refuses to conform to the rigid role she is being forced into.
Overall, this was a completely unexpected surprise. In under 150 pages, the author manages to give us a world full of fairytales and characters who find themselves in stories not belonging to them, but determined to chart their own course of their life story. If you love fairytale retellings with a twist, women being very supportive of each other, a thoroughly entertaining story with even better narration, and maybe some primer on what to do when you find yourself in a fairytale situation yourself – do give this a try. You will not regret it.
PS: Thank you to Macmillan Audio and Netgalley for providing me with the advance listening copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.