Title: The claiming of sleeping beauty
Author: Anne Rice
Genre: Romance/Erotica/ BDSM
Review: Before I begin the review I want to air a word of caution although this novel has a BDSM element, and most people would think of Fifty Shades of Grey this novel does have some ethical questions raised, for example, the rape of a minor in the opening chapter. For contextual reasons I will state now that “Beauty” is 15 and when the sex scene on page 2 occurs she is also unconscious.
“He mounted her, parting her legs, giving the white inner flesh of her thighs a soft, deep pinch, and, clasping her right breast in his left hand, he thrust his sex into her.”
The claiming of sleeping beauty is a sexually charged, very explicit, dark and not the average run-of-the-mill novel and to my astonishment was published in 1983. To say I was surprised after closing this novel would be an understatement, I am so used to reading my share of romantic – erotica with a romance driven storyline – but apparently I had yet to encounter a true erotica novel where the variety in sex was the main course.
From the second page, where the Prince tore the gown off Beauty and breaking the spell while having sex, I knew this would be a novel that would test even my boundaries. The dark eroticism saturated the pages along with Beauty’s inner struggles and I was fascinated with what Anne Rice would make of this familiar fairy-tale.
Beauty is taken to the Prince’s castle in some vaguely middle-age European kingdom. The castle is full of slaves like Beauty, and the Lords and Ladies who use and abuse them (and grooms – the slaves all have their own groom. Like a horse!) Supposedly Beauty is okay with being beaten, raped, and humiliated because she’s In Love with the Prince, and he’s so dreamy she’s just constantly in a state of impending orgasm. There is no explanation as to WHY she falls in love with the Prince in the first place or just blindly accepts her fate. In fact, logical problems abound. All these young people fucking and no one gets pregnant? No diseases? Girls never menstruate and guys are always at attention the second they’re required to be? But, you know, fairy tale, so I can live with all that.
Okay, so what about the sex? First of all, I’ve never read an erotic story with such clean language. “Cock” is probably as colourful as it gets. Reading about “organs” and “buttocks” and such was strange. The action felt a little clinical. Maybe that’s on purpose. Even though this book is nearly all sex, all the time, it’s not REALLY about sex. It’s about power. The difference in status between the Lords and Ladies and the slaves are emphasized through clothes, positioning, and even size. The captors are all described as tall, big, or imposing.
Pleasure and pain were so much intertwined in this tale and what surprised me too; I was actually able to be shocked. I have encountered enough flogging and paddling of buttocks, calves, genitals and thighs to last me a lifetime. Punishment in all shape and forms to test the resilience of a slave and to show that there is grace in accepting pain and dealing with it is also showcased on a frequent basis. To obey every command is giving the ultimate pleasure to the master. At one hand I could accept the pain and punishment within the world that Anne Rice had created.
For it gave Beauty a way to grow, change and feel an array of emotions. Yet on the other hand, as I sympathized with Beauty, I also felt discomfort because how can all this pain lead to a romantic involvement? How can pain involve pleasure, how can pain inspire love, how can pain teach? Those questions really occupied my mind during the time I read this story yet I also realised that this might not be a romance driven story. So if it wasn’t a romance driven story then what would it boil down to; characterization and erotically charged scenes but would this be enough for me?
There are a few decent sex scenes, but for the most part, the non-consensual and violent elements were too much – not too graphic or too disturbing, because actually I’ve seen worse, but just too numerous and repetitive and out of balance with the more, shall we say, warm and fuzzy sex scenes. I also found it disturbing that when a male slave is forced to have sex with another male, that’s called rape, but “rape” isn’t used to describe any of the various non-consensual acts perpetrated on women and girls. Then I found there was also passion, a forbidden passion no less and one that spiced this story even more. Prince Alexi captured my attention and preference the moment he entered the stage and I can only hope more of him is to come in the next two stories.
He has learned a great deal, he has an innate strength that made me feel he could survive anything and he holds a vast knowledge of how this court works. The instant attraction between him and Beauty brings an intriguing possibility to the table and brings hope for me as the reader that this is not just a string of sexual events proclaiming the mastery of those ruling the court.
There is a story and even character development here. Beauty starts out thinking she’s submitted to her Prince, but by the end she’s only beginning to understand what submission really means. There is some examination of her thought process and emotions. We don’t get much from the captors, but maybe that’s saved for the next books in the series. The characterization is another item on my list that caught me off guard. It felt more two dimensional, more like a telling of a tale where people conversed their emotion to the reader rather than allowing them inside their mind and heart.
Each person, from the Queen, to the Lords and Ladies, to the various princes and princesses who were slaves, they all added to this dark sexually rich setting where Beauty suddenly finds herself in. As odd as it might seem this story created a fascinating push-pull on me where the journey of Beauty might take her. She struggles with her emotions of rebellion, of surrendering her mind and body to the wishes of another and her own arousal. I want to find out if all the pain, humiliation, punishment but also the orgasmic gratification is going to be worth it in the end or if this is just a story of sex displayed in its various forms with a woman as a centre figure of it all.
“Beauty tossed her head. She felt the heavy braids fall against her back, and suddenly when the paddle struck her she felt herself move so languidly with it. It was as if this strange relaxation were softening her all over. Is that what they had meant when they said the pain would soften her? Yet she feared this relaxation, this despair – was it despair? She did not know. She had no dignity in that moment.”
The story ends on a high note where Beauty makes decisions that empower herself and it is one of the reasons I am intrigued enough to crack the spine of Beauty’s Punishment. Lord Tristan is another reason, he is enveloped in mystery and he tickles the curiosity. And as some or many of you know, I am a highly curious person. With 273 pages it is a well-rounded beginning of a trilogy where Anne Rice’s voice is evident from the beginning. It is loosely based on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale but other than the beginning I see very little resemblance but then again, I haven’t read or watched Sleeping Beauty in quite a while. Sometimes a novel fascinates you for very unusual reasons.
I cannot place my finger exactly on what it is other than that Beauty’s resilience intrigues the daylights out of me. For every pro there is in this story I have an equally strong con and the other two books will determine much for me. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty explores many facets of pleasure which will demand the surrender of the reader to this world and its rules. I for one am willing to partake in Beauty’s endeavour and am highly curious where this trilogy may end up.
Buy it here:
Also see: Of Love and Evil by Anne Rice