The story of Slumber is really the story of Rogan – her physical quest to save her friend as well as her personal journey toward coming to terms with her past. Rogan is a survivor. Having suffered the tragic loss of her family eight years earlier, she still feels the weight of it every day. Though she now lives a very privileged life as “The Handmaiden of Phaedra” – trusted confidante and adviser of the Princezna – her personal demons have helped shape the way she views the world, people and relationships. To most who know her, she comes off as a bit thorny, abrasive and outspoken. She’s very independent and doesn’t care much to live within anyone’s box. Yet, because we’re told the story through the perspective of Rogan, the reader gets a ringside seat to her vulnerable, emotional side that she very rarely shows others. It helps to humanize her character; it makes her empathetic.
In the absence of her family, Haydyn, the Princezna of Phaedra, is the dearest person in the world to Rogan – her best friend and sister in spirit, if not blood. When Haydyn falls victim to the mysterious Sleeping Disease that puts her in a coma-like state, Rogan cannot bear the thought of losing one of the only people she’s allowed herself to truly care for since losing her family. Rogan’s unique talents as a mage allow her to locate objects she’s been commanded to find. And so Rogan requests that she be the one sent to find the cure to Haydyn’s disease, the elusive Somna plant. Though she’s not a warrior or a trained fighter, Rogan is tenacious, brave, scrappy, proud, with a strong will and a determined mind. All qualities which serve her well in the trials that await her on the road ahead.
Speaking of trials, Rogan’s most apparent and immediate trial presents itself in the form of the dashing, yet formidable, Vikomt Wolfe Stovia, Captain of the Guard and the son of the man responsible for the deaths of Rogan’s family. Needless to say, there is bad blood between these two due to the murder of her family and the subsequent justice then sentenced upon Wolfe’s father. When Wolfe volunteers to escort her on the mission to find Haydyn’s cure, she’s less than thrilled, certain he’s biding his time for the right moment to avenge his father. But as they journey northward together, she wonders if she really knows the man she’s been demonizing at all.
The relationship between Rogan and Wolfe — the obstacles, barriers, and animosity — is just so well done. Young does a fantastic job of developing their relationship gradually, taking time to establish a back story for these two characters and then building the tension at a slow simmer. When you’ve got a book like this one where the two leads are traveling on a quest together, it can quickly fall victim to those old standby “romance on a journey” tropes. But I really appreciate that Young seems to think outside the box on this. There are so many instances that she could have capitalized on to further their relationship in a cliché way, and yet she doesn’t. It makes their story oh-so-frustrating at times, yet I think by developing their relationship the way she does, makes it feel more authentic. The interaction between Rogan and Wolfe is just so wonderfully complex, snarky and tortured. At times I just wanted to shake both of them, all the while desperately hoping that these two crazy kids will just come to their senses. Though Slumber does have a strong, fast-paced plot and a well-crafted world, the relationship between these two is really what drives this story forward and makes it such a page-turner.
The story of Slumber stems initially from the roots of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale, when Haydyn falls into a coma-like sleep – it’s the catalyst for the rest of the story. And yet it’s not Sleeping Beauty’s story, it’s Rogan’s. The journey Rogan embarks on is full of danger, excitement, intrigue. There are many enlightening moments as Rogan is exposed to people and places she’s only heard tell of. She learns many important lessons about life and herself as her assumptions and beliefs are measured against reality. It’s not just a coming-of-age/romance novel though. This book is an action/adventure thrill ride that catapults you from one exciting event to the next with very little downtime for the characters or the reader. In addition to the non-stop action, the setting Young has created is a complex, well-realized, beautifully described fantasy world. She makes excellent use of her fantasy land, giving the reader the grand tour over the course of the book. (Helpful tip – there’s a map of Phaedra on the author’s blog for those of you who like to visually track a character’s geographic progress.)
Overall, Slumber is an action-packed novel with wonderfully gritty characters, a vast and detailed fantasy world, and spine-tingling romance. Let’s just say I will be adding more Samantha Young novels to my TBR, and I’m anxiously anticipating the second book in this series, Sneak Thievery.
*** While classified as YA, Slumber does include some sexuality/sensuality that may not be suitable for younger YA readers. There’s also a pretty intense scene where one of the female characters is severely brutalized. For parents, I’d definitely check this one out first before giving it to your teen.