I must confess I always feel more than a little trepidation when someone I know offers to show me something they’ve written. My extreme perfectionism is a character flaw that I strive to overcome; but I find it almost impossible, even for politeness’ sake, to ignore the flaws in a piece of writing and to praise something that’s just not my thing. I read Regina Doman’s blog and enjoy her writing; but fiction is often a very different thing than fact. So when she graciously offered to send us a copy of her new book, I was very excited as a lover of young adult and children’s books, but also a little worried… what if I don’t like it very much?
I needn’t have worried. Waking Rose was a book I couldn’t put down, much to my husband’s dismay last night as I ignored him while I raced to get to the end. (Sorry, Dom.) I fell in love with the characters and am so glad there are two more books for me to find and devour. I’d highly recommend this book for readers of all ages.
It’s a modern retelling of the fairy tale classic, Sleeping Beauty, set mostly at a small Catholic college in small town Pennsylvania. So many of the details reminded me of my own college experiences, so many of the characters seemed like they could have stepped out of my four years at UD. And in many ways Rose reminded me of myself during that period of my life. Especially because she’s an English major and the book is laced with poetry.
Fairy tale adaptations are so easy to do poorly but in Waking Rose the fairy tale structure is subtle and never seems artificially imposed nor does it overpower the characters, making them seem like puppets. The most fantastic elements come out in dream sequences, which also don’t feel forced because they do seem so integral to the character’s psyche. The swordplay and chivalric language flow very naturally from the characters who wield them. I knew those guys when I was in college and cherished their eccentricities.
I must add too that it was refreshing to read a young adult novel that had a healthy dose of romance but a clear head when it came to chastity and morals. It was also refreshing to see a main character whose religious beliefs are successfully integrated into who she is rather than a garment that she wears.
The novel avoided all of the pitfalls that so much Christian fiction gets mired in. It never got preachy because the Catholic characters’ Catholicism is just a part of who they are. The book never feels a need to either exaggerate it or apologize for it. It’s completely misunderstood by those characters who would misunderstand, of course; but even that felt natural. Many authors would have felt a need to insert some apologetics speeches into some of the exchanges; but the book is driven by the characters and the story, not by a Catholic agenda. Which, incidentally, makes it much more effective as a potential tool for evangelization than many books which set out to evangelize.
I haven’t yet read the first two novels in the series, The Shadow of the Bear and Black as Night; but Waking Rose stands on its own as a good story. While some purists might have been annoyed at beginning mid-stream and at the frequent references to the back story, I never felt lost. the book gave just enough information that one understands who the characters are and why they act as they do. Though now I’m going to have to get my hands on the first two books because I am sure they’re just as good.