By A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, the first book in Roquelaure’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy, was first published in 1983. It was an extremely controversial book when it was first released. The series was even included on the American Library Association’s list of “100 most frequently challenged books” of the 1990s because of its explicit subject matter.
In this rendition of the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty is awakened from her 100 year slumber by a kiss from Prince Charming, but that is where parallels to the classic story end. The Prince whisks her away to the Kingdom ruled by his mother, the Queen. In exchange for the Queen’s protection, all princes and princesses that come of age are sent to the Queen’s court to be trained in “Grace, Beauty, and Wisdom”. In reality, they are subjugated into sexual slavery and used for the Queen’s own amusement. Beauty finds herself thrust into this world where the hedonistic exploitation of her body is her sole purpose. Nothing is taboo. There are no limits.
The book opens with both a figurative and literal erotic awakening for the character Beauty as she opens her eyes to Prince Charming stealing her innocence. From that point on, Beauty just accepts, and even craves, the perverse attentions of the Prince and his companions, male or female. The storyline in this book follows Beauty as she learns to accept further limits of sexual depravity. This reader, found the lack of depth in the plot not to matter so much because the content itself is progressively consuming. As soon as you get to a point where you are mildly comfortable with the eroticism, the stakes are raised and a new scandalous level is reached. The tone of detachment in the writing echoes the impartiality felt by the slaves for their own physical and emotional well-being; only their master’s pleasure is of consequence. While this book is considered to be formative in shaping the genre, this reader does not suggest it for someone new to erotica. Much of the content can be overwhelming and could shock an unsuspecting reader.
This reader considers this book to be the most explicit novel reviewed thus far. The sexuality of the book centers on master/slave relationships, specifically the use of shame as a form of punishment. Set in a hedonistic cult society, all the societal ideals that we commonly accept in regards to sex and relationships are stripped away leaving the reader sometimes agape. Beauty is forced to perform bizarre acts that publicly humiliate her and eventually strip her of all her dignity. She then becomes simply a vessel for her master’s pleasure, striving never to displease for fear of being punished or, even worse, cast aside. Even the writing further iterates this idea. The detached manner in which the book is written amplifies the feeling that the slaves have no purpose beyond pleasing their masters. With shame being the most prevalent theme in this book, this reader did not personally find the content to be arousing, however it is so well-written and so far beyond the scope of any other novel that to consider yourself a reader of erotica you must read this book.