A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas
Publishing Date: February 24
Genre: young adult, fantasy, retelling
One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.
Her family is long dead. Her “true love” is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.
As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.
When Aurora wakes up to a stranger’s kiss, she’s more than stunned and confused. For her, the last thing she remembers is preparing for her eighteenth birthday. For her, that was last night. But when she wakes to everyone calling her Sleeping Beauty — proclaiming that her curse was lifted with true love’s kiss, that her family and the life she knew is one hundred years in the past, that she is a fairy tale and a savior — it’s overwhelming, confusing, and far more constricting than she ever thought possible. She’s pulled in different directions, all political and a major pawn in multiple schemes. But her kingdom is nothing like it once was. Whom should she trust?
This looks like a pretty cover promising love triangles and sweetness and poor dialogue and over-the-top scenes. Yes, I’m that judgmental. But let me warn you — you’re not going to get love triangles and sweetness and poor dialogue and over-the-top scenes. Oh, no. No, you’re going to get a raw retelling with beautiful prose and a protagonist whose voice will be difficult to get out of your head. I’m surprised, and impressed.
Just imagine falling asleep today, right now, and when you wake up, thinking it’s tomorrow, it’s actually one hundred years in the future. Jarring. Frightening. Not at all a fairy tale. Now imagine waking up because a stranger kissed you, and that stranger, no matter how sweet and blushing and kind, claims that it was true love’s kiss and now you must marry. Even more frightening. What does that mean? Don’t you want a say in this? Now toss in four characters pulling you in four different directions, telling you what’s what from the last hundred years, and why an alliance with them is the best thing for the once-peaceful kingdom.
Overwhelming doesn’t even begin to describe it.
That’s what I loved so much about this retelling. It takes a well-known and romanticized fairytale and slaps you in the face with reality. Your brain absolutely could not comprehend what was going on, no matter how magical the circumstances. How in the world are you supposed to make any decent decision — personal or political — if you don’t know all the facts? And at the same time, how can you be who you truly want to be if, what felt like a day ago, you thought the curse on you would’ve been broken and you’d be free? How can you be who you truly want to be if storybooks were written about you while you slept, idolizing and glorifying you, trapping you into a neat, pretty box?
Aurora, in short, is overwhelmed. She was trapped in a tower growing up, away from everyone except guards and family, for fear that Celestine’s curse of a spinning wheel’s spindle would forever harm Aurora. She was also trapped emotionally, for while she was locked away her mother continued Aurora’s lessons on how to behave like a princess — to smile and curtsy and give vague, flattering responses in conversation. She wakes up to a world far more restrictive, shuffled around a new royal family and treated like a prized possession and a pawn. The queen is harsh and unforgiving, forcing Aurora to be seen and not heard. The king is outwardly jovial but, behind the scenes, vicious and ruthless. The prince is sweet but lacks a backbone.
Stifled, Aurora seeks freedom by sneaking out of the castle and enjoying anonymity in a local tavern, where she learns about a rebellion against the king. Her cover is blown, but she’s offered a position in the rebellion. Not wanting any bloodshed, Aurora is torn when she’s offered another position in a political alliance with another kingdom. This one means bloodshed as well, so she toys with the two evils. But as her wedding date gets closer, she discovers remnants of the curse within — that she’s capable of magic. If the queen or Celestine caught whiff of this, Aurora’s future is doomed.
What I enjoyed most about this was Aurora’s voice, her complicated thoughts jumbling together — to align with this person or that, and the consequences of it; to discover what happened while she slept; to find a way to be who she really is in a world that shuts her away. It felt…real. Like if it were possible for one to sleep a century away and woke up, how one would react. Mourn for family lost. Mourn for culture lost. Mourn for a kingdom lost. Race to understand this time, this place, these people, their motives. And Aurora’s response to all of this is so very genuine. Her resolution wasn’t predictable at all. She’s not the kind to align with rebels simply because she’s angry with the king — she wants to find an answer without killing. She’s not the kind to align with a boy simply because she likes him. She’s not suddenly “strong” and “rebellious” like so many of our heroines today who throw themselves into something simply because they don’t like what’s going on now. No, Aurora thinks things through.
This book is a foundation for what’s to come. And I can’t wait to read about her adventure and her decision — and see how that plays out!
Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from HarperTeen for review!
4 thoughts on “Book Review: “A Wicked Thing” by Rhiannon Thomas (ARC)”
I love retelling of tales and especially this one, which is one of my fav. It’s seems so interesting and I’d love to read it.
You should check it out when you get the chance!
Morgan @ Gone with the Words
I’m really excited to read this! I’ve heard mixed reviews but yours makes me think I’ll enjoy it a lot. I ordered a copy with a Valentines giftcard that I had! Loved your thorough review, you’re so right. It would be completely scary and jarring to wake up 100 years in the future. Can’t wait to read Aurora’s voice for myself 🙂
I’ve read several of the not-so-great reviews, and I think people went in with expectations for lots of action and a romance. While HarperTeen is notorious for this (thus my skepticism and the whole misleading cover thing), I was relieved to find that this book sets the stage for future ones. There’s a lot of groundwork covered in this book, and I enjoyed the pacing. I’m ready for the next!