Short Stories 366:180 — “Early to Rise,” by Ana Mardoll

coverOkay, I know I keep saying this of the stories in No Man of Woman Born, but “Early to Rise” is so freaking good and I think it’s my new favourite of the collection (at least until I read the next story, which seems to be the pattern of the tales thus far). This is a retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” (I think I’m on my fourth retelling of this fairy tale since I started this short fiction project, come to think of it) and, like all the stories in the collection it turns things sideways by including transgender and nonbinary leads, in this case, that Claude has girl-days and boy-days, shifting from she-to-they-to-he, and as the curse approaches, Claude wonders if true love is something real, let alone something that can be found in time.

The wrinkle of this story is another dash of cleverness from the author, as the fairy blessings (and the fairy curse), were all worded in a specific way about the daughter of the King and Queen, as a princess, as she. When Claude does indeed prick her finger and fall into the deep slumber, no one is as confused as Claude himself when he wakes up on a boy-day thereafter, and finds the whole kingdom asleep around him.

Trying to solve a curse when everyone who cares about you is locked in magical slumber and you’ll only be awake on days where you are male leaves Claude fighting an uphill battle, but he doesn’t give up and his thought processes as he hunts for solutions are grand. More, the ultimate realization of a way out of the curse had me grinning from ear-to-ear, especially in how grounded it was in the very magics and situation that spawned the whole curse in the first place. So, yeah, my new favourite of the collection, and I daresay my new favourite version of “Sleeping Beauty” as a whole.

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