Now, I know that it’s bad etiquette to judge a book by the front cover, but I must admit that initially, that was what drew me to Once Upon a Dream. To begin with, the book has slightly different proportions to what we see in a regular book. It is a wider, and shorter, and squarer than I’m used to. The pages are a bright white too. The dimensions remind me of children’s books and that’s a good thing in this instance. The cover is simple and pretty. The illustrations are intriguing and familiar enough to draw most Disney fans in.
Given that it is a retelling and continuation of the Disney film and not just the story of Sleeping Beauty, there are direct referrals to the film. If it hadn’t have been one of my favourites as a kid then I would have had some difficulty catching onto those references. However, those references are not necessarily essential to the plot.
Aurora as a character is much more fleshed out in the book, which in my opinion is not all that hard to do. If you look at her in the film, even though the story revolves around her, she isn’t a very active participant. In Once Upon a Dream, you see the way she develops from being the stereotypical and almost two-dimensional fairy tale princess into a complex character who is worthy of her station by the end. Maleficent is explored from Aurora’s point of view and we are given a unique insight into her character from someone who doesn’t know her the way that the reader and a lot of the characters do in the original story.
I like that the plot isn’t too complicated. You get a follow on from the Disney film and then also a new story with the characters you already know. However, the main characters in the book are much more developed than those in the film
. The story is set in a dream world created by Maleficent. Despite its developer, the dream is in Aurora’s head meaning that once she is aware, she has some control over it. It’s obviously explained better in the book, but that is the general gist of it.
When we first meet Aurora in the book she is older than she is where the film left off (time moves faster in the dream world) yet she is possibly less developed than the naïve princess Disney gave us. You get to experience her growth and see how she deals with, betrayal and deception. It breaks her down and we are privileged to see her build herself back up into the person she creates rather than what she is told to be by Maleficent and the person she was before she was put under the sleeping curse.
One criticism I have with the book is that it can be a bit predictable in places. The flow of the plot is very formulaic. Big thing happens – consequence – time of recovery – travelling/discussion – big thing happens… and so on. I suppose this could be me just being overly critical but it did spoil the immersion for me. An argument for this is that it is reminiscent of the style which Disney uses in their film, however, I do think that it is much more noticeable in the written form.
Overall, I really liked the book. It was enjoyable and the predictable success was very satisfying. Once Upon a Dream was a good book for me to settle into easily (since I already knew the world) and a safe step for me to get back into reading. I give it a tentative 4 stars – mainly because Goodreads won’t let me do half stars and I’m nice.