With all this talk lately regarding the merits of fractured fairy tales, sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and enjoy a sugar-spun story. The Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker is ADORABLE. I think it’s my favorite book yet by Baker, who wrote the Tales of the Frog Princess series (the first novel was the inspiration for Disney’s The Princess and the Frog). The novel revolves around Princess Annie, the younger sister of Crown Princess Gwendolyn. As babies, Gwendolyn was cursed, destined to prick her finger on a spinning wheel upon turning sixteen. Not wanting another cursed princess, the King and Queen ask one fairy to gift Annie when she is born, making it so that no magic (good or bad) can ever harm her. When Gwendolyn pricks her finger and sends her kingdom into one hundred years of sleep, Annie is the only one unaffected. The Wide-Awake Princess is her story, and deservedly so—Annie is one kick-ass heroine!
I hate how fairy tales can fall into tropes where the prince is always the one to save the day and rescue the powerless maiden. Not so here. One thing that hooked me early on was the way Annie saves Liam ( one of the unaffected guards who was away from the palace when the curse set in). He gets all shame-faced about it, but Annie could care less. Without her, he would have died. Liam joins Annie on her journey to gather up princes in an attempt to find her sister’s True Love. Along the way, she encounters a mish-mash of fairy tale encounters such as Hansel and Gretel as cleverly thrown together as something out of Stephen Sondheim’s epic musical Into the Woods or the Shrek movies. There’s even a fairy tale role for Annie, which I didn’t see coming, but was delighted about. The way the novel arrives at its conclusion was completely satisfactory. I especially loved the way romance builds between Annie and Liam despite their opposite roles in society. This book hit my sweet spot in all the right ways. It’s ADORABLE and I loved it to bits. I would have loved to see what happened next and wasn’t quite ready to leave Annie behind; she’s such a strong heroine that she wormed her way irrevocably into my heart.
The cover is just as sweet as the story it’s concealing! Until I actually picked up the book and started reading, I thought this novel was going to be another Sleeping Beauty story, albeit one where the Princess somehow didn’t fall asleep. Looking at the cover again now, there’s so much I previously missed. Annie is staring out the balcony window, which is the first thing your eye sees upon analyzing this cover. How did I ever overlook the sleeping girl on the bed behind her? Now it’s completely obvious that this book is about TWO princesses. I also love the way there are sleeping courtiers and knights in the foreground below Annie. While Annie is described as average-looking in the book due to having been bestowed with no magical blessings at birth, the girl on the cover is really cute! To me, she looks just as pretty as her sleeping sister, the “beautiful one.” I think Annie is still adorable… No wonder Liam always tells her that! I love the way the title typeface draws out the pink in Annie’s dress and uses a nice storybook font. Likewise, E.D. Baker’s name uses the coloring from the castle walls, which is more muted and fits in better at the bottom. None of the typography is obstructive, leaving us leeway to admire the beautifully-illustrated cover.
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