“Love was terrifying in its power. Love was just plain terrifying.”
– Holly Black
Thank you to NetGalley and Disney Book Group for an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
From New York Times bestselling author Holly Black comes a captivating original novel set between Disney’s Maleficent and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, in which newly-queened Aurora struggles to be the best leader to both the humans and Fair Folk under her reign; her beau, Prince Phillip, longs to get to know Aurora and her kingdom better; and Maleficent has trouble letting go of the past.
Heart of the Moors hits the ground running from the very first page. Aurora has just returned to her kingdom of Perceforest after awakening from her curse and being named Queen of both Perceforest and the Moors. So while her Godmother, Maleficent, is protector of the Moors Aurora is officially the Queen. Prince Phillip of the kingdom of Ulstead is also among the cast of characters. While his kiss may not have been what awoken her from her cursed sleep, she sees him as one of her best friends and confidants. With the mess that both her father and Maleficent created behind them, Aurora wishes to unite both her kingdoms and bring peace to her peoples. While a challenge in and of itself there are other forces at work, ones who wish to keep the fae and humans from uniting. It’s the typical Disney story of love, romance and deception all crafted with Holly Black’s typically beautiful and melodic writing. Black knows her fae folklore and it was interesting seeing that focus on the classic Sleeping Beauty tale.
I hadn’t really looked into the background of this book before picking it up, so it wasn’t until I was 20%-30% in that I decided to do some research. It starts off fast and I felt like I was reading the second book in a series versus a standalone. I was missing information and while it wasn’t getting in the way of my enjoyment of the book, it was a tad hard to push on while hoping things would be better explained later. Heart of the Moors, from what I understand, is meant to be a bridge between the 2004 Maleficent movie and the new 2019 Maleficent: Mistress of Evil movie. So all this information I was missing I found by rewatching the first movie. Not a big deal but I do wish that had been stated in the synopsis maybe or even just restated in the novel. This didn’t affect how much I loved the book though and I ended up finishing it in one sitting.
In the original Sleeping Beauty we never really get to know Aurora on a personal level. I also never really considered what happened after she woke up. Aurora was a kind person with a big heart, but she was also strong and smart. Being Queen of two kingdoms where the peoples of each fear or even hate each other is hard. Attempting to unite them together is hard work and not something easily accomplished overnight. It was interesting to see her approaches to making this happen. Toss in little to no sleep because she’s terrified of not being able to wake up and a hot prince who she might kind of like/love but didn’t break the curse with true love’s kiss and Aurora has a lot on her plate. She’s also still trying to figure out who to trust at court and how to trust in love after love got her into the curse situation in the first place. She never falters though and she stays true to herself and loyal to both the fae and the people of Perceforest.
While we get to learn more about Aurora, the multiple POV allows us to also explore a different side of Maleficent. Her love for her goddaughter is obvious, if not a tad misguided at times. We get to see her try to be the person Aurora thinks her to be though and not the evil witch King Stefan made her out to be. Her main priority now is Aurora and her safety. While a main character I felt like she took a backseat to the other events happening in the book. Always there but more of an unseen force than a main spectacle. I really enjoyed her moments with Prince Phillip though. She questions his motives and the validity of his feelings for Aurora like any real mother figure would do. It was a bit funny seeing her step into that role but very fitting.
Prince Phillip kept me guessing until the very end. We also get chapters from his POV and thank goodness because the opening of the story had me confused as heck. His kiss didn’t break the curse and then Aurora is describing him as a friend. Just no. That was not the story I signed up for and I needed love now. But then, just like Phillip and Aurora, I started thinking about how in real life you really don’t “love” someone after just meeting them one. This was a more realistic take on true love versus the Disney fairytales we’ve all grown up with. We, like Aurora, get to know him as a person and not just as the prince that valiantly tried to save her. He seemed like a genuinely good guy, but then Aurora’s advisor drops that the Prince might just be after the kingdom and is using Aurora. I doubted Phillips’ motives the whole time. Even while liking him I still considered the possibility of betrayal. We also have Maleficent questioning his motives as well which added to the growing doubt. Will he be another King Stefan and betray Aurora as Stefan did Maleficent? Or is he really only there because of his love for Aurora?
Minus the missing details at the beginning I really loved this book. Black did a magnificent job of bringing her fae knowledge and background into this classic tale and really fleshed out these characters we grew up both loving and hating. My favorite part was probably the riddles scattered throughout the story. It was a sweet way of connecting not only Aurora and Phillip, but bringing in that classic fae mischief. Disney fan or not this is a must read and is perfect for people of all ages to pick up. A well written twist on a classic story.