J.L. Weil’s Slumber is a post-apocalyptic retelling of Sleeping Beauty in which the elements of romance and dystopia are often indistinguishable.
I received a free ebook copy of Slumber from the author in exchange for an honest review.
The gorgeous cover immediately drew me in, and I can never resist a fairytale retelling.
Unfortunately, this one didn’t work for me on any level: writing style, plot, characterization, or worldbuilding.
But before I get to that, I want to make one thing clear:
It didn’t fail for lack of a big publishing house behind it.
It has a gorgeous, professional cover, and the purple prose has clearly been copyedited. I’m sure the award-winning J.L. Weil deserves whatever awards she’s won.
But Slumber disappointed me in the same ways as a hundred thousand traditionally-published romance novels have before it.
That is, massively but not unexpectedly.
When I agree to read a romance, I’m prepared for a plot that exists mainly to delay the happily ever after (and doesn’t always make much logical sense).
I was disappointed Weil didn’t tie any overarching literary theme into her worldbuilding.
In her fantasy world, everything beautiful is deadly. That could have been cool social commentary, especially in a Sleeping Beauty retelling.
But romance and social commentary don’t always mix well, I guess.
Because it is a romance, I anticipated flowery language and meaningless metaphors:
“… like flame to a fire”? What?
(Yeah, I know she means, “Like a fire stands out against a fire,” but that isn’t what she said.)
And the white = pure metaphor is:
- Creepy (Your first thought after finding a sleeping stranger should not be, “How virginal!” Ew.)
- Kinda racist
But cliche, creepy, kinda racist heroes are nothing new. (Although most of them probably have better names than Dash Darhk.)
Neither are bizarre, unsexy “sex” scenes.
Neither is authors romanticizing relationships that, were they happening in real life, would be toxic at best.
That particular trope is so old and so widespread I don’t even want to talk about it on my blog.
It’s been talked about. It’s boring. I don’t have anything new to add except some illustrative quotes:
“Who are the Night’s Guard?” I whispered, pressing him for answers. It was true I didn’t want to stay in this room, but could I trust him?
“Your worst nightmare,” he muttered.
He kisses a sleeping stranger, tells her the world has ended, and then threatens to leave her for the Bad Guys to find. What a prince.
He took a step forward, eyes flashing like a silver bullet. “How does it feel, knowing you’ve kissed a killer?” The texture in his voice had gone low and ruthless.
Life advice: When someone tells you they’re bad news, believe them.
There are several instances in which he kisses and/or grabs her either without her consent or against her wishes (which is portrayed as totally romantic), but I’m not going to quote them because I found them really upsetting.
But it wasn’t actually Dash that made this such a difficult read. It was Charlotte.
And it wasn’t because I found her annoying (although I did):
It was because she reacted to the hero threatening and insulting her the way a real-life abuse victim would: with fear, radical mood swings, a growing distrust of herself and the world around her, and denial.
It was heartbreaking:
Look, write what you want. I firmly believe fiction both reflects and creates the “real world”; I also believe in artistic freedom.
I don’t always agree with what artists use their freedom to do. And I know my early relationships would have been a lot healthier if my idea of romance hadn’t come straight from novels like this one.
Which, ultimately, made it impossible for me to enjoy reading Slumber.