NESFA Members' Reviews


by Orson Scott Card

Del Rey/Ballentine Books, 1999, ISBN 0-345-41687-2

A book review by Elisabeth Carey

Sleeping Beauty sleeps for a thousand years, and a young boy in Soviet Ukraine finds her on a grassy pedastal in a pit in the woods near his cousin's farm, while his parents are trying to get visas to leave the country and emigrate to America. He can't do anything about it, and he convinces himself that it was only a dream. Twenty years later, he's a graduate student, working towards a Ph.D. in Slavonic languages, and his thesis research brings him back to Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet Union. He wakes and rescues the princess, and when they can each see one bridge leading off the pedastal to the solid ground on the far side of the pit, it's not the same bridge. They take hers, and wind up in her 9th-century kingdom of Taina. The only survival skill Ivan has for Katerina's world is speaking the language; he has no skills which making him a plausible prince and king in this world. But they must marry, or Baba Yaga, the witch that is trying to destroy Katerina and her father and seize Taina, will win. Ivan, who in addition to his linguistic skills is a pretty fair decathlete, struggles to learn skills respectable for a knight in the 9th century, such as the use of a broadsword, and how not to disgrace himself in 9th century Carpathian society, while Katerina struggles to understand her weird betrothed, who is too educated for a peasant, completely lacks a knight's skills, and doesn't know the most basic, ordinary rules of decent behavior. Meanwhile, Baba Yaga is still plotting against them, and not everyone in Taina is altogether reconciled to the fact that Katerina is betrothed to this weird foreigner who can't fight. I think this is more original and interesting than some other relatively recent retellings of Sleeping Beauty, and Card's a good writer, and he omits the child torture this time. Recommended.

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