Title: Beautiful Dreamer
Author: Sam Singer
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Amazon: Buy Link Beautiful Dreamer
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Length: 220 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Lloyd A. Meeker
Review Summary: A sweet but odd retelling of Sleeping Beauty
From the time he was a child, Nicholas Crittendon, oft-overlooked second son of the Duke of Sanburne, has been outcast because of his fascination with the myth of the Lost Kingdom. As legend has it, the entire population was wiped from existence when its prince was cursed by an evil sorceress into a deathlike sleep.
Convinced that the Lost Kingdom is real, Nicholas devotes his days to reading and research, trying to pinpoint its location. As he grows older, his nights become haunted with dreams of a blond, green-eyed young man calling to Nicholas for help. Nicholas’s interest spirals into an obsession that drives him away from the comfort and safety of his life and toward the unknown of his dreams. Those slumbering visions may hold the key to everything he’s searched for and a lover he never believed could be real.
Right at the outset, I should admit that I found something odd and disturbing about Beautiful Dreamer, and it took me a while to understand what that was. In my effort to figure out my discomfort, I bought a short story of Singer’s from Dreamspinner so I could hear the author’s voice outside the book I had in front of me to review.
Let me also say at the outset that other readers may not have the same discomfort with this story as I did, so please don’t take my comments as some one-size-fits-all pronouncement about its quality.
Beautiful Dreamer is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Re-casting such a famous fairy tale in a fresh and convincing way is not as easy as it might seem, and Singer found a very attractive frame for her story’s canvas. Her use of dreaming as a way of making the story fresh and engaging was both ingenious and admirably executed. It held the story together.
That said, this story is not a subtle or nuanced work, and its atmosphere is not at all dream-like. The author paints actions, issues and emotions with heavy strokes and unhesitating assertiveness. I encountered some significant story-logic problems, but I’m reluctant to dig into those for this review. My intention is not to be mean, and I figure I’m going to be critical enough without.
After reading Beholding Beauty as well as Beautiful Dreamer, I came to the conclusion that what made me uncomfortable with Singer’s writing is author intrusion.
When I read fiction, I don’t like being “told” opinions that don’t come organically from the characters, especially if I’m told in what comes across to my ear as an arbitrary “parental” voice: “Because I say so.” Characters become sock puppets for the author.
The author obviously has no distaste for same-sex desire and relationship. Yet in the two stories I read she imposes an awkward and pedantic sexual/moral overlay that is rationalized by the characters whenever they are required to support her agenda.
The most blatant instance of this was a celibacy-before-marriage trope (supported by a few carefully-engineered events planted earlier in the story) that astonished and disappointed me when it showed up toward the end. Neither the planted events nor the trope had anything to do with the story, and really damaged it, to my reading.
As I say, your mileage may vary on this and you’re welcome to your own views on the matter. Indeed, you may passionately believe celibacy before marriage is an essential manifestation of love and respect for your future spouse. But that’s retelling a fairy tale I won’t read happily.
Singer’s plots are well thought out, her writing is vigorous and colorful although often heavy-handed and uneven. She gets her points across, no doubt about it. I would love it if, through refined craft and more self-discipline, she would let her characters make theirs instead.