* Prices may differ from that shown
**Warning, this is an adult novel, so there will be some adult content in this review.
I'm sure most of you are familiar with that heartwarming fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty. You know the one, parents forget to invite grumpy old bag to christening, grumpy old bag lays a curse that when the princess begins to blossom into a young woman, she'll prick her finger and the entire kingdom will descend into a deep sleep, until Prince Charming comes along, cuts off her clothes, inserts his penis without so much as a by-your-leave, and then carries Beauty off naked to serve in his mothers kingdom as his own person love slave.
No? Well, I imagine when you were little, your parents probably read you a different version, because this version definitely isn't one for the kiddies. I've long been a fan of Anne Rice, but although I was aware she had written some erotica under the pen name A N Roquelare, I only recently got around to reading the Sleeping Beauty trilogy, of which this is the first book.
And it certainly gets started with a bang - a quite literal, and possibly slightly rapey one, given that young beauty is in a slumber from which only a kiss will wake her, and he goes for the penetration directly after the cutting away of the clothes but prior to giving her the kiss that will awaken her and enable her to consent. Bit of a risky opening scene perhaps, and certainly one some people will object to, but it does set the tone for what else is to come in this book - this isn't a romance novel by any means - whilst there might be some slight sweet moments, the sex is the primary focus of sex, whether that be oral, anal, penetrative, consensual or otherwise, or denied all together.
In terms of kink levels, it's certainly much darker and deeper than some of the erotic novels that have become popular in recent years, and whilst it is en exciting, engaging, and even an erotic read, there are some moments that are shocking. There is a lot of physical force used, and quite a lot of consensual non-consent. This is a world without safewords, where sexual preferences are fluid and ever changing, and where slaves are slaves in both the sexual and literal sense. Whilst I did rather enjoy reading this, despite it being shocking, there were certain elements of the book that I didn't enjoy.
I didn't, for example, really buy the story that Princes and Princesses would be sent from Kingdoms all over the place to this one in order to be taught humility through abuse, but I could let that go what with it being a fairy tale. More on the 'icky' side, there was quite a lot of hole switching going on, and rather a lot of fluid mixing, which frankly is just a little unsafe an unsanitary. However, I appreciate that with a fairy tale set at some unspecified time in the past, you probably can't really work in a condom or a safe sex message, and the fault probably lies with me for not being able to immerse myself fully in the fantasy world, where AIDS probably doesn't exist (especially given that this was originally written in 1983, just when Aids was starting to enter the public awareness).
Overall, I found the book enthralling and utterly gripping. I found parts of it quite stirring, but I also found parts of it repetitive, or a little too morally blurry. It has a strong, if occasionally slightly unbelievable story line, engaging characters that I started to feel connected to, and I found it hard to put down , ending up reading the whole book (which isn't terribly long) in under a day. I'm going to award it four stars - whilst I enjoyed it and appreciate that is an erotic fiction, rather than a how-to guide, I was a little uncomfortable with some of the moral lines being crossed, for which I deduct 1 star.
The book does have a 'look inside' preview on Amazon, where it sells for £5.75, if you want to try before you buy.