If you thought 50 Shades of Grey was too out there with its “highly erotic” BDSM theme which “shocked” (I’m being sarcastic here) readers with its “sadistic” practices (that have been there for a long time), then I suggest you absolutely DO NOT get your hands on The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (a.k.a. Anne Rice). Because if you thought 50 Shades was too much, The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy might just give you a heart attack.
Almost everybody slotted 50 Shades in the porn category after merely reading a few chapters of the first novel and even people who read all 3 books labeled it as disgusting, most of them being generous in their elaborations on why they thought Christian Grey was a sadomasochistic bastard (They are just gonna love The Prince and all the Masters in the Trilogy). Most of them miss the fact that there was a story around Ana and Christian and that he came a long way from where he started to where he ended. BDSM, if you think about it, is nothing but a pleasure cum pain sex-form built on elaborate role-playing with a lot of “toys”. It works for some and it doesn’t for others. Those who haven’t tried it shouldn’t label it as degrading or condescending because people normally give these labels to anything they are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with. Don’t write it off based on the whole idea of it because at the end of the day it involves mutual consent and people who practice it actually find it enjoyable. Ana does and so does Sleeping Beauty. You also don’t have to like or support the practice of BDSM to enjoy a novel. Because fiction in any form or under any theme can be enjoyed by any reader who keeps an open mind.
Wake up and smell the erotica
If you have read Anne Rice’s Vampire novels, you must have taken note of her style of writing. She has this knack for creating strong characters that leave a lasting impression. I have still not to this day found a vampire I have enjoyed as much as the Vampire Lestat. If anyone was given the chance to be a vampire, they would want to be Lestat. I stumbled upon Sleeping Beauty by accident and was immediately intrigued, at first more because I wanted to see what she could possibly do with a fairytale that already existed. She changed her name to A.N. Roquelaure for this series because she said she was doing something totally different from her usual style of writing and had to separate her identity of Anne Rice from the woman who was writing the Trilogy. After you read the Sleeping Beauty series you will understand why.
In the context of fairytale characters, 2013 seemed to be dedicated to Snow White. With Sleeping Beauty 2014 and Maleficent hitting theatres and Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty Trilogy getting re-branded, 2014 seems to be nudging Sleeping Beauty towards the spotlight. Anne Rice wrote the Trilogy in 1983 making her one of the most liberal forward thinkers of her day and age. Since people were more unreceptive that they are now, the books weren’t that publicized or even considered on anyone’s reading list. But with the 50 Shades fever still around, there may be hope for the Trilogy just yet.
Personally I loved the Trilogy because I am always for a twist in the normal fairytale. The more twisted the better. Rice cautions readers at the very beginning saying that these books aren’t ordinary erotic novels and that there is practically something erotic happening on every page. She does not disappoint. The difference between 50 Shades and the Trilogy is the breather factor. While 50 Shades gives you time to breathe/recover from the explicit scenes, the Trilogy doesn’t even give you time to recover between novels. You simply have to finish all three books because you need to know what happens next.
When you read the book, keep a very very very open mind. Remove everything you know about everything you know, keep it in a little box and lock it up. Otherwise you’ll view most of the acts that take place in the books as either prostitution or rape (which it is but at the same time is not). The rules of the game are very different within the Prince’s Kingdom and the surrounding Kingdoms, one of which Beauty belongs to. From Sleeping Beauty’s POV, think of it like your parents forcing you to attend Sex Camp, like they’ve signed the permission form saying you have to go and enjoy yourself and “do” what (or who) your elders tell you to do. Although it’s the parents who consent not the children, we know that the real practice of BDSM involves consent of both parties actually doing the dirty. The best way to get through the books is to go with the flow and view the book as nothing more than pleasurable fiction. Enjoy the author’s imagination (this may be hard) and don’t judge it (this will be harder).
Suck it up: Getting a taste of what lies within the pages
The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy does deal with “an awakening” of sorts,not an awakening of the norm but more of what one would describe as a sexual awakening. Along with other Princes & Princesses from neighbouring kingdoms, Sleeping Beauty is sold as a tribute to the Prince who claims her & his mother Queen Eleanor by her parents with the promise of being returned when she has been perfected in obedience, stating that the more she understands her sexual nature by means of submission, the more she will grown in wisdom, resilience and understanding of who she is and the nature of her people. Which leads to Question 1: If one undergoes a sexual awakening, can that lead to an overall awakening of self?
As the ever intelligent reader, you sometimes love the fact that you have a bird’s eye view of the whole situation, that you understand the plot and the feelings of your characters before they do. But in the Trilogy, you are put in the same boat as your characters. You do not know whether to feel sorry for the characters or not and whether you’re repulsed or intrigued by what is happening. The characters themselves repeatedly question their feelings throughout the novels, whether what they feel is painful humiliation or absolute pleasure through pain paving the way for Question 2: Can pain and pleasure truly exist alongside each other?
After the initial claiming of Sleeping Beauty, where you had your first “What the fuck just happened?” moment (I say “first” because the book is full of these moments) you are led through a series of sexually tormenting activities through the eyes of Beauty, Alexi, Tristan and Laurent. Suddenly you realize that after the initial horror of the first few pages you get slightly more adjusted to all that is happening as do Sleeping Beauty and the other tributes. You get desensitized to all activities erotic by the time you reach Book 3, the only difference being your curiosity gets piqued with every page turned. Since this happens to the reader though the novel characters, one naturally expects the actual characters to achieve a certain sense of desensitization to painful pleasure themselves and their sexual curiosity getting piqued throughout their various encounters. Which makes us ask ourselves through Question 3: Can repeated exposure to BDSM practices make even unwilling practitioners (or readers) enjoy such encounters?
What does it mean to be truly truly submissive? Most of the tributes who tell us their stories have a streak of rebellion in them. But does that rebellion stem from mere disobedience or a higher form of obedience that leads to them wanting to perfect themselves for the state of true submission? We associate slavery or submission with total obedience. To do without question, without the merest act of rebellion. But in the Trilogy, most of the slaves seek to disobey to achieve higher forms of punishments; they crave to be perfected to go beyond the pain they already know, to test their resilience to the fullest. In doing this they beg the answer to Question 4: Does submission mean obedience in the truest sense, or does it encompass acts of rebellion to achieve a state of perfect submission?
Because Beauty is still a fairy tale character and you associate fairytales with happy endings, you expect a certain level of romance to be entwined with the fates of Beauty and the other tributes. You are constantly waiting for Beauty to fall in love. You expect it to happen with almost every male tribute she meets since you tend to feel a kind of coldness towards all the Masters. From the first Beauty is singled out from the rest of the tributes because while she submissively lets her body be used by others and even derives pleasure from it, she does not love her Masters so her heart remains her own. Through Beauty and the other tributes, you come to encounter the various forms of love that can arise between a slave and master. Fearful, submissive love of the slave experienced through Alexi, love and adoration for the sexual process which extends to the master through Tristan, and finally the love of the role occupied which magnifies the love between individuals through Laurent and Beauty.
Prince Alexi at first a rebel had to be broken down until he submitted to his position as a pleasure slave. He finally becomes a pleasure slave but it is certain that he will never be a rebel again because he is comfortable in the current position of pleasuring mostly brought about through fear of what happened to him when he rebelled. Tristan on the other hand had already surpassed his level of performance in his current position and his need to be exposed to a higher degree of punishment leads him to rebel so that he is sold to the Village whose punishments exceeded that of the Palace. We come to know however that his heart will always belong to the Master who provides him the highest degree of punishment and therefore the highest degree of pleasure. Beauty and Laurent while rebellious and appreciative of the process share love for the transformatory impact of the process on their natures, they are in love with the roles they have to adopt more than the love for the process. While Beauty thrives on the role of the slave, Laurent thrives on his role as the Master though it is indicated that both of them are equally at ease in reversing the roles, playing either the Slave or the Master. But it is highlighted that since very few royals are capable of reaching the level that Beauty and Laurent do, the two of them are equals of a like-minded nature or rather soul-mates who are destined to fall in love with each other, leaving their love for roles aside. Which answers Question 5: Can love exist within the domain of domination?
To conclude whether readers will love or hate it, in the end the Sleeping Beauty Trilogy won’t fail to dominate its readers
Sleeping Beauty and the Prince by Manuel de los galanes (http://www.mdolla.com/2011/12/manuel-de-los-galanes-fotografias.html)
Prince Laurent by ana-esperanza (http://ana-esperanza.deviantart.com/art/Prince-Laurent-370264770)
Princess Beauty by ana-esperanza (http://ana-esperanza.deviantart.com/art/Princess-Beauty-370261459)
Prince Tristan by ana-esperanza (http://ana-esperanza.deviantart.com/art/Prince-Tristan-370252958)
Beauty by A-Sad-Pandas-Poptart (http://a-sad-pandas-poptart.deviantart.com/art/Beauty-WIP-213250687)