(This review contains spoilers.)
A retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Toadling, a changeling child raised by water monsters known as greenteeth, has grown into a strange-looking being with a propensity for turning into a toad. She is sent back to the human realm to a small kingdom, to attend the baby princess's christening and bestow a blessing on her. Two hundred years later, Toadling guards what's left of the castle inside a protective hedge of thorns, containing the threat within, until one day a kindhearted knight rides up, searching for the legendary sleeping princess.
This was a short read - I finished it in an hour. I enjoyed it a lot (I've enjoyed all of T. Kingfisher's books that I've read). It's nice to read books about unabashedly good and kind heroes. Toadling's relationship with Halim is very sweet. There are also lots of references to fairy lore. (My favorite section was a brief exploration of the idea that fairies steal milk from cows.)
The main idea of the novel is the changeling myth. Toadling is actually the true child of the king and queen, having grown up in the fairy realm where time doesn't match up with ours. And the princess, Fayette, is her fae counterpart—a juvenile version of the cruel, heartless fairies who will vaporize humans without a second thought. The older Fayette gets, the more dangerous she becomes.
The most heartbreaking part is the character of the queen, who loves her daughter fiercely and does her best to protect Fayette while also coming to realize that Fayette is a monster who must be stopped. She never suspects her real relationship to Toadling, who never breathes a word. There is no grand resolution for her character. It's pretty bleak.
In the afterword, Kingfisher explains that she had the idea while working on Harriet the Invincible, also a fractured fairy tale retelling of Sleeping Beauty (in which the princess is an indomitable hamster, cursed to prick her finger on a hamster wheel on her twelfth birthday, who fights back against the curse and visits some other fairy tales).
If you're looking for a short and sweet retelling of Sleeping Beauty, definitely give this one a read.
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Researching folktales and fairies, with a focus on common tale types.