Review: Once Upon A Princess Saga by C.S. Johnson

Welcome back to the Once Upon A Princess Saga Blog Tour! On tap for today: A review on the entire saga! If you didn’t catch my interview with the author, C.S. Johnson last week, it’s pretty epic and you should totally read it.


Once Upon A Princess Saga
Want to participate in a treasure hunt?
At the end of each book in this series is a special collectible clue. Collect all four books, and get all four special prizes, FREE!

“I have better things to do.” 
“Like what?” Rose asked. “Waste your life on a fool’s journey, under a silly girl’s orders?” 
“I have never considered saving your life to be the same as wasting mine, Rosary.” He came and stood in front of her, the ease of his presence replaced by an unusual heat rather than familiar warmth. Rose had never before been bothered by the six inches he stood taller than her, but all of a sudden the shadow of his strength imposed itself on her. 
The cursed beauty of the moonlight revealed the clarity and sharpness of his eyes as she gazed up at him. “What if you did waste your life though? What if?” 
“If I have wasted my life, I have wasted it on you. Willingly.” 

For four years, Princess Aurora of Rhone—Rose to her friends—has searched the world for a way to break the curse placed on her by Magdalina, the wicked ruler of the fairies at war with her kingdom. Under the curse, Rose is doomed to die on her eighteenth birthday after pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel. And time is running out.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Rose makes the journey home with her friends—Theo, a priest with a penchant for revenge; Mary, a young and talented fairy; and Ethan and Sophia, siblings with a troubled past–as pressure from her father, King Stefanos, leaves her with two equally unsatisfying options: Abdicate the throne, or get married.

Enjoy this novella series retelling of the Sleeping Beauty, with new characters, new plot twists, and plenty of action and adventure. Perfect for teen and young adult historical fantasy readers.

Book One, Beauty’s Curse, is available to read for free from Amazon!


The Once Upon A Princess Saga is a set of 4 novellas, Beauty’s Curse, Beauty’s Quest, Beauty’s Kiss & Beauty’s Gift, that is a re-imagining of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. It is geared toward a teen-aged/young adult audience, but this 27 year old didn’t have a hard time enjoying it.

The first novella, Beauty’s Curse, opens mid-scene with very little introduction of characters or the problems they face. The author expects you to know the basics of the tale; princess cursed at birth by evil sorceress to prick her finger on a spinning wheel at a certain age and die–and doesn’t slow down to clue you in. This wasn’t an issue, as the problem itself is, naturally, the center of the story and comes up plenty on its own.

Characters are introduced as they appear on the page, and again, given very little upfront background. While it was somewhat disconcerting during the first novella, this element strangely worked as the story went on, as the rest of the novellas slowly fleshed each one out, giving each their turn to shine.

The first novella was a little slow going for me, as I didn’t find our main character, Aurora Rose (goes by Rose) to be likable in the least. She is a typical 17 year old girl, very much concerned with her own pain, her own problems, and how no one could possibly understand her. It’s understandable, given her age and situation (uh, cursed, hello) but the direness of her situation did not make up for her rudeness to other characters and mercurial mood swings. How a character like this could possibly be surrounded by people who not only love her, but feel loyal and compassionate toward her, is beyond me.

However, the character of Theophilous was a well thought out addition to the tale. I enjoyed the comparisons made between knights and priests, and how Theo tries to balance his unshakable belief in God, with his desire for revenge. He was easily the best character of the saga, and made huge leaps in growth by the 4th novella.

Beauty’s Quest was an interesting side bar, and was the best novella for character development of side characters. It actually felt like two quests in one. Within it, Rose is still incredibly annoying, but by the end she seems to be leaning toward some serious character-growth. This one was a cleaner read, though I did feel like there were two endings-one in the city of Maltia, and one after ‘slaying’ the dragon.

Beauty’s Kiss is the tale that covers the return journey, victorious, from the Quest(s?), now the characters have to figure out how to defeat the evil sorceress. This was a more introspective addition to the story, and one I enjoyed the most. I like the quiet moments before the battle, because I believe you get to know what is at the heart of a character there. Rose was irritating as ever, making one despair of her ever maturing. Theo was at his best, and the cast of side characters grew in more ways than one. The end of this novella is a cliff-hanger, and leaves you reaching for the next and final chapter right away.

Beauty’s Gift has our two main characters split up for the first time, and it is interesting to see them on their own, having to find a way to be comfortable in their own skin. As I said before, this novella is where Theo’s character really grows and matures. It also is, thankfully, when Rose finally does too. The moment she finally lets herself live is the moment she becomes a bearable protagonist. It’s frustrating because, much like Rose realizes in the last 20 pages, there is so little time left to enjoy this moment.

Religion is a given in this saga, but it’s not over done or over zealous. It’s simply a part of the world they live in, and is a part of Theo as a character. I liked that Rose struggled with her belief in God, even as I pitied her shortsightedness. Luckily, she figured it out in the end.

This series asked the obvious questions that any adult would have after reading or watching Sleeping Beauty- how would Aurora not know about her curse? Why wouldn’t the King & Queen simply have more children? How can you possibly fall in love with someone when you’ve known them only two days? Why would the evil sorceress curse a child just because she wasn’t invited to a christening?

The Once Upon A Princess Saga does a fairly good job of answering these questions. This is a re-imagined tale, so don’t expect it to follow every plot point from the Grimm or Disney versions. Instead, it picks and chooses what it likes, and reworks what it doesn’t.

Johnson did an excellent job of weaving the original story, as well as other fairytales, together to create this world that you can easily imagine as long ago, but maybe not so far away.

Overall, this was fun, clean read with some romance and plenty of action. If I was a mother, this is the kind of thing I would want my teenagers reading. And I could read along with them happily enough.

Spoilerific Side Bar: I love that in the end, Theo is actually the title character. And it totally makes sense with the opening scene in Curse.


Enter To Win!

Once Upon A Princess Giveaway

Love reading fairytales? Enter to the world of C.S. Johnson’s Once Upon A Princess Saga by entering to win a paperback of Beauty’s Curse, the entire saga in ebook format, four specially designed t-shirts of a quote from the series, and two handy mugs for your favorite drink.

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About C.S. Johnson

CS Johnson

C. S. Johnson is the author of several young adult novels, including sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles series, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family. Find out more at http://www.csjohnson.me

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Disclaimer: This Saga was provided to me, free of charge, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to say nice things, though that didn’t stop me.

Hey, why don’t you leave me a comment and tell me what you thought of the review? Have you read the saga? Have an idea for an epic fairytale retelling? Let me know!

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One thought on “Review: Once Upon A Princess Saga by C.S. Johnson

  1. What a fantastic review, Shannon! I loved hearing your thoughts and I’m so glad that you enjoyed it overall! It seems Theo has been a favorite among us all. 😉 It would be interesting if CJ wrote a spinoff story with Theo as another blogger mentioned.

    So excited you participated in the tour, Shannon! Such great thoughts here.

    Liked by 1 person

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