After the sudden death of her birth parents, Marina Roeswood meets her Aunt Arachne, who is to be her new guardian. Slowly Marina realizes that her aunt is the embodiment of the danger her parents had been hiding her from in the backwoods of Cornwall. But can Marina unravel the secrets of her life in time to save herself from the evil that had been seeking her for nearly eighteen years?
Putting a fresh face to a well-loved fairytale is not an easy task, but it is one that seems effortless to the prolific Lackey, best known for her Valdemar series (Arrows of the Queen, etc.). In a brilliant twist, the author sets the classic story of Sleeping Beauty in Edwardian England, imbuing her characters with the power of elemental magic, including the cursed child herself, Marina Roeswood. In an uninvited visit to her christening, Marina's evil aunt, Arachne, arrives in a puff of smoke and delivers a deadly curse, which is mitigated by the blessing of a family friend who imparts one last gift on the baby. Marina's guardians spirit her away to the Devon countryside to grow up. When we next see her, Marina is galloping through her 17th year, pursuing her magical training, though her guardians have tragically kept her ignorant of the curse. The inevitable triggering of said curse, when she turns 18, pits Marina's intelligence, cunning and magic skills against the full force of satanic evil. Beautiful phrasing and a thorough grounding in the dress, mannerisms and history of the period help move the story along gracefully. Marina's character, along with those of her guardians, her friends and Arachne, are fully fleshed out and credible. The fact that a teenage half-trained water mage would even dare to take on a 40ish satanist may be a bit implausible, but only on second thought. This is a wonderful example of a new look at an old theme.