For years, Briony has lived in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Rosalin, and the curse that has haunted her from birth--that on the day of her sixteenth birthday she would prick her finger on a spindle and cause everyone in the castle to fall into a 100-year sleep. When the day the curse is set to fall over the kingdom finally arrives, nothing--not even Briony--can stop its evil magic.
You know the story.
But here's something you don't know. When Briony finally wakes up, it's up to her to find out what's really going on, and to save her family and friends from the murderous Thornwood. But who is going to listen to her? This is a story of sisterhood, of friendship, and of the ability of even little sisters to forge their own destiny. The first in a three-book series of fairy tale retellings, these are the stories of the siblings who never made it into the storybook.
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I’ve always known what would happen to my sister on her sixteenth birthday. Her doom has been hanging over her head since before I was born.
So when I woke that morning, I went straight to her room.
It was before sunrise, so Rosalin was still alone. Soon everyone would descend upon her—her ladies-in-waiting, our parents, the royal wizard. This was the day she would be struck down by her curse—the spell that, even more than her astonishing beauty, made her the center of attention everywhere she went. Today would be like every other day of her life, except a million times more intense.
And nobody but me would know how much she hated it.
From the door, my sister looked like she was still asleep, her head turned to the side and her breathing soft and even. But Rosalin is the one who taught me how to fake being asleep. I wasn’t fooled.
I padded across the room, past delicate wooden tables piled with birthday gifts, and hopped up onto her bed.
“Hi,” I said.
She didn’t move. She didn’t open her eyes.
“Come on,” I said. “Today, of all days, you want to pretend to be asleep?”
Rosalin’s eyes popped open, then narrowed. “That is an incredibly insensitive thing to say! What is wrong with you?” She pulled herself to a sitting position and snorted. “Aside from your hair, I mean.”
I touched my hair instinctively. I hadn’t brushed it before I came—not that it would have been less of a frizzy tangle if I had.
“And your face. You have chocolate on your eyelashes, Briony. How did you even manage that?”
She knew how I had managed it. We had sat up late last night going through her boxes of birthday chocolates, laughing and stuffing ourselves and arguing over who got the cream-filled ones.
Yet somehow, even though I hadn’t left until she was nearly asleep—when I knew my plan to distract her had worked—Rosalin’s face this morning was smooth and clear, unmarred by the slightest hint of exhaustion or chocolate.
“It got you up, didn’t it?” I said. “We need to talk before everyone else gets here. You’re going to make sure you’re never alone today, right?”
Rosalin’s face went tight. “Yes, Briony. I will have one of my ladies accompany me everywhere. I’m sure that’s all it will take to defeat a fairy curse.”
I winced. I wasn’t used to hearing her refer to the curse out loud—even though everyone in the castle, everyone in the kingdom, knew what was supposed to happen to her today.
On the day she turns sixteen, she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall asleep. She will sleep for one hundred years, and the entire castle will sleep with her. The curse will be broken only when a brave and noble prince fights his way through the thorns around the castle and wakes her with a kiss.
And that was better than her original fate. The curse the fairy queen had put on my parents, long ago, had said that their firstborn daughter would be beautiful, but would prick her finger and die on her sixteenth birthday. Rosalin’s fairy godmother had managed to change the curse from die to sleep for a hundred years, which was an improvement, but still not exactly ideal.
No one knew why the fairy queen was so angry at my parents. Supposedly it was because they hadn’t invited her to their wedding, but it had been decades since the fairies had attended any royal parties. According to the court minstrel, it was the fairy queen herself who had commanded that all fairies withdraw from the human world and stop meddling in human affairs. My parents had assumed inviting them was just a formality, and they hadn’t gotten around to it.
And then the fairy queen had taken offense and cursed their first child.
I wanted to reach for Rosalin’s hand, but the way she held herself—like her body was made of porcelain—told me she would slap me away if I tried.
“The guards have been pulling extra patrols for weeks,” I said. “There’s not a single spinning wheel left in the kingdom.” Now I was just parroting what my father said. “You’re going to be all right, Rosalin. Really.”
She did her best to smile, but she didn’t meet my eyes.
In my fantasies, I was always coming up with plans to save her. Ways to lift the curse and change everything. Sometimes I dreamed that I bargained with the fairy queen to place the curse solely on me and spare the rest of the castle. I imagined everyone gathered around my sleeping form, amazed at my sacrifice, while Rosalin thanked me through her tears.
I wasn’t sure, deep down, that I was brave enough to sacrifice myself to save my sister. But I liked to think I was.
“Rosalin—” I began.
The door flew open, and half a dozen ladies-in-waiting poured into the room, arms full of ribbons and cloth. They fluttered around the bed, and Rosalin pasted a far more convincing smile on her face for their benefit.
Their gazes slid right past me. I pushed myself off the bed, and one of the ladies stepped on my foot.
“Ouch!” I said. She sighed heavily, annoyed that my foot had been in her way.
They gathered my sister up and swept her in the direction of the bath. I stood staring after them until she was out of sight, but Rosalin didn’t look back at me even once.
I trudged back toward my room, to rouse my own ladies and convince them that I had to get ready for the party, too.
As far as I could recall, that was the last thing I did that day. That year. That century.
The next thing I knew, I was opening my eyes and shifting uncomfortably on a cold, hard floor. I didn’t remember falling asleep, but I must have; my mind felt fuzzy, and my muscles slow and sluggish, as if I hadn’t moved them for . . .
. . . a hundred years.
My eyes snapped open.
The last thing I remembered was walking out of Rosalin’s room, striding down the hall as the early-morning light began to filter through the windows. But now the sunlight was beating strong and bright on my face, and the floor beneath me was bare stone.
Which meant . . .
I closed my eyes again, as if I could change what I was seeing. Then, reluctantly, I opened them.
I was on the floor of a large, drafty room. In the center was a crooked wooden table with a wooden wheel perched precariously on top of it—
A spinning wheel.
“Oh, curses,” I said.
That sort of language would have gotten me yelled at (even though it was the literal truth) if anyone else had been in the room. But no one was. I was all alone, just me and the spinning wheel.
I’m sorry, Rosalin, I thought. I’m so sorry.
But something was wrong. Even more wrong than the obvious.
If this had happened because of the curse, it should have been Rosalin here. Why was I in the room with the spinning wheel? Where was my sister?
A chill slithered up my spine. I turned my hands over and checked all my fingertips. No blood. No sign of a prick. They were my own stubby, scratched fingers. These weren’t the fingers cursed to be pricked. I had no curses hanging over my head—and no blessings, either.
I should have been waking up in my bed. Or in the courtyard. Or in the kitchen, or on the roof of the stables. Any of the places where I spent my time.
Instead, I was in a room I had never seen before, with a very large, very illegal spinning wheel casting a shadow on the floor.
And I couldn’t remember how I had ended up here.
Fear climbed up my throat. I tried to swallow it and managed to reduce it to a churning sense of wrongness in my chest. It made it a little hard to breathe, but at least it was possible to think.
Clearly, the curse had struck. And just as clearly, it was now over. If I was awake, the prince must have come, and that meant everyone was awake. Including my sister.
I had to find her.
I got up, and my muscles creaked painfully, like I had been in the same position for hours and hours. How many hours were in a hundred years? Twenty-four hours a day multiplied by—
Not now, I told myself firmly, and started toward the door.