The Sleeping Beauty is a novel by Mercedes Lackey, published in 2010 as the fifth book of the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series. As in the previous book, The Snow Queen, characters from earlier books are either mentioned or appear as secondary characters
The Sleeping Beauty was written by Mercedes Lackey as the fifth installment in her Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series.
Lily is the godmother to the Kingdom of Eltaria, which is quite wealthy due to its vast number of mines. After its queen dies, Lily takes on the appearance of an evil sorceress, with the name "Sable", and marries its king in name only, so that he won't be trapped into marrying a real evil sorceress and Princess Rosamund won't have a wicked stepmother. However, this doesn't stop the Tradition from focusing on Eltaria, particularly on Rosa, who ends up with two Traditional paths tangled up and directed at her—the Beauty Asleep and Snowskin. While her outer appearance is that of a Sleeping Beauty, Rosa ends up being attacked by the Huntsman and is captured by seven dwarves. However, unlike the ones in the Traditional tale, these dwarves are renegade ones, who shackle a chain about her ankle and turn her into their slave. Godmother Lily locates Rosa, and donning the disguise of an old bee-woman named Maggie, goes to help the Princess. Since there is no way to remove the chain from Rosa short of cutting her foot off or having the dwarves do it, Lily reveals herself and gives Rosa a potion that will simulate death.
Meanwhile, Prince Siegfried of the Kingdom of Drachenthal arrives in Eltaria, with his companion, a Wise Bird. Siegfried is a Hero, but unlike most from his land, he is intelligent and listens to the good advice of the Bird. Seigfried encounters Rosa and plans to awaken her with a kiss, just as Godmother Lily is in the middle of performing an awakening spell. At the same time, another prince, Leopold of Falkenreid also encounters Rosa. The two princes get into a minor fight over who will kiss her, in which time Lily manages to complete the spell right before Leopold wins and tries to kiss Rosa. Rosa recovers from her ordeal and begins training as a Godmother, partly to relieve her boredom.
Unfortunately, King Thurmand dies shortly after, leaving "Queen Sable" as Regent until Rosa turns of age at twenty-one. This means that their enemies will descend on Eltaria, intent on taking over, unless measures can be taken to prevent it. Godmother Lily, however, comes with a plan: for one hundred princes to come and take part in trials to see which one of them will win the hand of the princess. Adventurers are also allowed to take part, however, they are not housed at the castle like the princes. Seigfried and Leopold decide to stay and take part in the trials, and they strike a bargain to help each other through the trials until the last task. The first trial consists of a race on horseback, in full armor, with a break in the middle to herd three sheep into a pen (either doing it yourself, with or without magic, or hiring a shepherd) and line up a dozen eggs without breaking them. Seigfried, who understands the speech of animals, finds out that sheep love clover and bean plants, and gathers some for him and Leopold to use to herd the sheep, while Leopold buys them each a small dustpan and a wooden spoon to deal the eggs.
The second test involves each prince being given a gold item that is mildly cursed—they can only be free of it by adding the item to the hoard of a dragon that guards a mountain pass without harming him. Seigfried is cursed by having amphibians appear to fall from his mouth every time he speaks, while Leopold ends up with a curse that turns him to one of those morose poet-princes, who desire only to wear black, stay up at night, and write (usually bad) poetry and songs. Those two curses amuse the dragon immensely, which convince him to take the cursed items from them. The third trial involves the remaining princes answering a series of riddles. Meanwhile, another prince named Desmond has also been doing quite well at the trials, and has managed to attract the attention of Rosa, up until the time they eventually kiss and she finds out that there is no spark between them.
By this point, Rosa and Seigfried have fallen in love. The final trial is announced, in which the remaining ten princes have to come up with a way to protect Eltaria for the present and future, and marriage is not a solution. The prince with the best answer will be declared the winner and receive Rosa's hand in marriage. The Huntsman turns out to be working for Desmond, and the two kidnap Rosa, invoking the Tradition by locking her in a tower with thorns surrounding it. The unicorn Luna drives the thorns away, while the Bird—now a Firebird—burns it. After a fight, Desmond is killed, the Huntsman and Jimson end up switching places, so that the former is trapped in the mirror world and the latter becomes human, Rosa is rescued. Seigfried, who had thought up of a solution to the final test just before Rosa being kidnapped, wins her hand in marriage by proposing they have good dragons guard the borders. "Queen Sable" steps down and proclaims Rosa and Seigfried to be Queen and King of Eltaria, after which she returns to her godmother's castle with Jimson, whom she realizes she has fallen in love with. In return for what Leopold has done, he is sent to wake the sleeping Shieldmaiden (Brunnhilde), with the two falling in love, marrying, and deciding to spend their life traveling and having adventures.
In the Harvest Moon anthology, published in 2010, the story of Prince Leopold and Brunhilde continues. While doing their travels they end up in a country resembling ancient Greece. While they are resting a man in a black chariot comes up out of the ground and kidnaps Brunhilde, thinking she is Persephone. At the same time Hades is revealing himself to Persephone, who already knew who he was and agreed to go and be his consort. When they arrive in Hades's kingdom, they encounter a furious Brunhilde and the perplexing problem of how to get her back to the world of the living.
Meanwhile Leopold has taken one of the flying horses he and his wife received at the start of their adventures and goes off to confront the Gods. They inform him that Demeter has left and Leopold immediately takes action to make sure the people of the land are taken care of. While he is taking care of that, Persephone and Brunhilde are tasked with making a pomegranate grow in the Elysian Fields, the only place in Hades's kingdom where something edible has grown.
In the end Persephone and Brunhilde successfully get one pomegranate to ripen and she earns the right to stay with Hades for part of the year. The solution to Brunhilde and Leopold's problem is found in a journey back to the world of the living, with Leopold in front being tempted and dealing with his own personal demons while not being able to turn around and look at Brunhilde, and Brunhilde behind having to work out her own internal problems without interfering in any way. They successfully complete the tasks and are reunited, with an added bonus: Brunhilde had demanded Leopold get some form of lasting immortality that did not backfire (such as making him grow old and live forever) and at the end of the story they are making it happen, even though it involves not being able to touch each other for a very long time.
In a review by Publishers Weekly, the reviewer wrote that "despite plenty of twists and laughs, the plot is surprisingly forgettable, and most of the fun comes from finding all the fairy tale in-jokes peppering the pages".