The Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker
Bloomsbury Publishing, 2010.
This one was reviewed by Melissa on her blog “Book Nut.” I immediately opened a tab and requested it from the library.
Here are the Publisher’s Comments:
In this new stand-alone fairy tale, Princess Annie is the younger sister to Gwen, the princess destined to be Sleeping Beauty. When Gwennie pricks her finger and the whole castle falls asleep, only Annie is awake, and only Annie—blessed (or cursed?) with being impervious to magic—can venture out beyond the rose-covered hedge for help. She must find Gwen’s true love to kiss her awake.
But who is her true love? The irritating Digby? The happy-go-lucky Prince Andreas, who is holding a contest to find his bride? The conniving Clarence, whose sinister motives couldn’t possibly spell true love? Joined by one of her father’s guards, Liam, who happened to be out of the castle when the sleeping spell struck, Annie travels through a fairy tale land populated with characters both familiar and new as she tries to fix her sister and her family . . . and perhaps even find a true love of her own.
I love the premise of this fairy tale twisted.
This is a very well-thought out tale. Annie is quick-witted and determined. She also loves her family even though she is treated rather poorly [in a proper fairy tale fashion?].
On her venture to find the means to break the curse, Annie encounters other fairy tale figures. Most of the characters populating this tale are delightful. And even the most vile are a source of comedic relief at turns.
There is a great deal of humor to be enjoyed by the adult reader, parents. I especially enjoyed the aspersions cast on Rapunzel; and then the insult to a later Queen regarding the efficacy of peas as a means of testing for true princesses.
Affected beauty is criticized, and naturally produced charm is valued—by the tale, not the realm in which the story resides. When Annie stands too close or touches an enchanted individual, they’re true appearance is revealed, and often with it, their true nature. Love that grows out of friendship and genuine affection is juxtaposed with the shallow pretense of appearance and societal expected pairings.
Annie is the rare authentic amidst grand facades. We know that Annie is the most genuine because she is unaffected by magic (even as she must be effected, i.e. physical affection is withheld her). Annie has not been enhanced by magic in any way. Any skill she would have she must develop. Any beauty is sheer genetic outcome and then upkeep (she is often witnessed watching her diet –cite).
Annie learns skills out of contrariness. Her sister cannot or will not, so Annie will. Notably, every skill listed and learned comes in handy on her bid to save the kingdom. She has to overcome fear (climbing) and physical limitation. There is a definite work-ethic morality woven into the pages of the text. Yes, Annie has a privileged upbringing but she makes use of her available resources in ways even her sister does not (like learning to read).
The application of intelligence, of creative thinking, is highly valued and appears strongly connected to those with a work ethic. I suppose if you have few problems (if any) you needn’t exercise your mind the way those who have to work for what they want or for survival must.
The novel is still fun for those who find possible morals or messages in a text tedious; regardless of their transparency. Baker has a fabulous imagination; taking elements of an old tale and adding some new to create an utterly satisfying result—The Wide-Awake Princess.