“Kingdom of Ashes” by Rhiannon Thomas follows the story of Sleeping Beauty that began with “A Wicked Thing.” This is a Sleeping Beauty unlike any fairy tale read to a child. It’s a story of wickedness and political unrest, and Aurora, the Sleeping Beauty who was used as a pawn for a king’s evil plan.
When, at the end of “A Wicked Thing,” Aurora escapes the evil machinations of King John, whose son Rodric awakened Aurora, she doesn’t know where she will go. At the beginning of this book, the spark of magic that she had in the first book explodes when she accidentally sets a town on fire after the king’s guards find her and try to arrest her.
Aurora ends up in Vanhelm, the kingdom of Finnegan, the prince that she didn’t trust in the first book. In this story she learns about the dragons that plague the land of Vanhelm. They had appeared fifty years before and burned the country down. Because the dragons would not cross water, the only safe place was the capital city which was an island. It is crowded with all those left of the kingdom — crowded on the island. Because her magic seems to be a fire magic, Aurora believes that she has a connection with the dragons. Finnegan believes that she can help put the dragons back to sleep.
Aurora also must figure out how to deal with Celestine, the witch who cast the original spell that caused Aurora to sleep for a hundred years. Celestine wants Aurora to live with her so Celestine can train Aurora in magic. Aurora has many decisions to make and because of her youth, she makes some of them rashly and with serious consequences.
Aurora is determined to return to her country and rid them of the tyrannical king. She has been branded a traitor and a witch, so she is not sure of her reception there. There is also the mystery to be solved of what the curse was that put her to sleep for a century. What did Celestine want and what did her mother offer in trade? Celestine claims that her mother breached their agreement and that is why she cursed Aurora to sleep for all those years.
Thomas writes with plenty of action and she uses dialogue effectively to show the characters of Aurora and Finnegan. Although at times it seems that she has difficulty showing how women can bond unless they are doing each other’s hair, the characters are more than one-dimensional fairy tale figures.
Fairy tale readers will enjoy this tale which does not really have a happy ending — yet.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by HarperTeen, the publisher, for review purposes.
Follow the National Book Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.