Once Upon a Dream Review - Aurora Reclaims Her Own Dreams
by Elizabeth J. Braswell
Published in 2016
If anyone is as huge a Disney fan as me, then Elizabeth J. Braswell might be the perfect author to add to your bookshelves! While most of us are comfortable with the Disney classics from the Little Mermaid to Beauty and the Beast, I bet we have always had questions… what would have happened if they didn’t get their Happily Ever After? That is the question that Elizabeth J. Braswell poses in every one of her books in the Twisted Tales collection. As for Once Upon a Dream, she asks, “What if The Sleeping Beauty never woke up?”
The Prince has defeated the dragon and makes it to the tower to give his beloved Princess a kiss… however instead of this waking up the princess, it instead also curses him into a death-like sleep. This story takes place inside Aurora’s dream in her cursed sleep. Within her dream, Aurora has no memories of her past life, only the life she has been living in her dream, constructed meticulously by Maleficent. In a kingdom that has been ruled by Maleficent, no one is allowed to leave outside the palace walls as the world outside has been wiped out, poisonous and dangerous, a place not fit for a Princess. While it feels like she has been stuck in this dream for years, time works differently on the outside. Maleficent is trying to keep her asleep long enough to be able to permanently take over her mind. The horror of being stuck in the dream is that if you die in the dream, you also die in real life.
After getting some assistance from three fairies, she runs away and ventures out into the unknown world outside, where she meets with the Prince. Aurora and Prince Philip must work together to figure out how to escape away from Maleficent. During this time, Aurora begins piecing together her memories to separate what are true memories and what are created memories for her to realize that she is stuck in a dream! Prince Philip and Aurora decide to return back to the castle to face Maleficent for a final showdown. While they’ve been gone, Maleficent has been cracking down on the people trapped in the castle more than ever, with a few even killed. Aurora fights against her and defeats Maleficent and finds her parents trapped in the dungeons. Everyone is released from the dream and wakes up from their death-like sleep as Aurora is reunited with her family once again and everything is restored.
Final Rating & Thoughts: 8/10
I was in love with this rendition of Sleeping Beauty! I think that the original classic story is interesting with Maleficent so clearly hating the kingdom when she curses Aurora and that no matter what the kingdom does over the next 16 years to protect her, Aurora still succumbs to the curse. However, the ending of a Prince kisses her and she lives Happily Ever After is always too clean of an ending. It isn’t satisfying because Aurora doesn’t get the chance to be active in her own Happily Ever After. Once Upon a Dream rectifies this problem by letting Aurora be the one to break her own curse and fight against Maleficent. I also feel like they made her much more of a proactive character than she is in her own traditional story. The tale of Sleeping Beauty, Princess Aurora really doesn’t do much besides live in the woods for 16 years, fall in love with the first guy she meets, and prick her finger and sleep. She was actually always my least favorite Disney princess because I always felt like she doesn’t really do anything! But in this novel she’s smart and independent and questions things and fights for herself and for her people and I can’t help but respect this version of her!
I also found this version of the story to be so creative! I didn’t know how Liz Braswell was going to turn this twist into an entire novel because if Aurora wasn’t woken up with a kiss then I expected 200 pages of her just sleeping. However, I think this version of the curse is even more terrifying than the traditional version because Aurora was trapped in her dream for 16 years! Even after waking up, I can imagine for months or even years afterwards just being terrified and having trouble separating reality from dream. Maleficent almost got away with it too! If it wasn’t for the fairies that showed up and helped joggle Aurora’s memory, she would have still been trapped in this world thinking everything was normal.
Overall, I do recommend this book to Disney fans. It seems like Disney usually takes forever to come up with new stories to add to the mix, so I love that Liz Braswell is just re-imagining the classics in a way I haven’t thought of before. So far, I found Once Upon a Dream to be my favorite alternate tale of hers! I just loved Maleficent’s cold character and her extreme manipulation of Aurora as well as Aurora herself who was such a kind and clever character. I didn’t love Prince Philip so much but can I expect a man to do a job a woman can do for herself?