A Wicked Thing, by Rhiannon Thomas

Did Sleeping Beauty really wake to find a happy ever after with the prince who kissed her?  The answer, as told in A Wicked Thing, by Rhiannon Thomas (Harper Teen, Feb. 2015), is no, and the result is a very good story, if you like slower, introspective fantasy (which I do). 

Princess Aurora was sheltered all her life, kept in a virtual prison with almost no contact with anyone from outside the castle for her own safety.  But the curse found her, or perhaps she found it, none the less.  And she fell into her enchanted sleep, and was woken by a kiss a hundred years later.  The prince is nice enough, though shy and awkward, but at first Aurora can hardly think about him as a person; he is more place-holder in the story of her life.  Questions swirl madly about her--what has happened in the past 100 years, and why isn't she being filled in?  What do the current king and queen really want from her?  What does she want for herself, and is there any point to asking that?  For once again, she is being kept a virtual prisoner, locked in her room at night for her own safety.  The common folk are hungry and fed up, and the king's ruthless disregard for their lives fans the fires of their rebellion.  Aurora's awakening is supposed to be a miraculous cure-all for the woes of the kingdom, bringing magic and prosperity back to the land, but Aurora has no clue what she is supposed to do to achieve this (other than stand quietly while her wedding dress is fitted around her).

She is more than a helpless pawn, though--in her first life she learned a secret escape path from the castle, and she uses it again to visit the town outside.  There she meets a young revolutionary, who sweeps her off her feet--but does he really care for her, or simply want her for his cause? And then there is the prince of a neighboring country, were dragons awoke and flew out of mythology into reality while she slept.  He to is playing a game of his own, with Aurora as a game piece, but there is clearly more to him than meets the eye....And then on top of that, the enchantress who cursed her a century ago is not yet finished with her.

Aurora lacks experience with political intrigue, with romance, and with rebellion; the only experience she has is living passively under the threat of a curse.  She must decide how to use herself, and the magic within her, to make things right...and to do that, she has to figure out what constitutes "right." She has no reason to expect much from herself, and so she has no clue what expectations might be reasonable in terms of personal choice and agency.  And she has to stay alive in a new age where there are those who might well want her dead...

Because so much of the tension comes from Aurora deciding how and when to act, and because the story mostly takes place inside her head, and because it take her a long time to actually do much acting, some might find this a rather slow read.  I didn't; it was pretty much a single sitting whip through for me.  I really like character-driven political intrigue, and books where the characters question the roles life has assigned them, and I found Aurora's claustrophobic situation easy to empathize with and utterly believable.   I think the sequel will be more dramatic (and perhaps have dragons!) and I'm looking forward to it lots. 

Here's another review at The Book Smugglers.


  1. You know how the Book Smugglers said they initially disregarded because of THE DRESS? Me, too. I am just over the BIG FOOFY DRESS on YA book covers, and it ...prejudices me to think it's a big, foofy story. But am really glad this isn't the case here, and happy to read!

  2. Oh wow, this sounds fantastic. I too am over THE DRESS as a YA cover motif, but gosh this sounds like the best kind of fairy tale retelling, where they truly make you look at the story with different eyes.

  3. I’m definitely here for A Wicked Thing‘s sequel and more of Thomas’s works. If you like feminism in your fantasy YA with gender relations that more closely resemble our own as well as a fairy tale deconstruction, get thee to a bookstore of some sort and buy this book.


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