Let's start with the fact Beauty's virginity is taken without her consent. That's how the original fairy tale goes and I guess if you find virginity something to be treasured, that's a horrible thing to wake up and find it gone. Next up is the Prince says what in my mind comes down to "I have proven my penis works by raping you in your sleep. I'm going to do it again, then take you to your parents naked and tell them you're mine now." Oookkaaayyyy, the tribute part I can get. I woke you, you belong to me. Medieval but that's where the setting is AND all the kingdoms send their princes and princesses to the Queen's castle as a rule. HOWEVER (there's gonna be a LOT of however's), Beauty's parents and the Prince are the only ones who know what will happen to Beauty once she gets to the Queen's castle. Beauty's mother blushes all over the place remembering it. Nobody seems to want to enlighten Beauty about what she's in for. They're all just so happy the Prince woke them all up that they are completely ok with her going off with him to the Queen's castle for complete sexual debasement.
I understand BDSM. I know what it is and I get why some people may like it but they know full well what they're getting into when they start. I get that Beauty is a slave and it's the Queen's order, however, a clue that her next little adventure would be to get spanked in public by a townswoman, I wonder if Beauty may have had some second thoughts.
So, for the rest of the book, Beauty is at the whim of the Prince and goes to the castle. Everything is completely new and amazing. She LOOKS at another slave doing his thing. The Prince drags her off to his room, spanks her, then proceeds to rape her again. Right here is where I wanted to punch the Prince in the nads. Beauty has been asleep for 100 years. The entire world is brand new not to mention all of a sudden finding herself a slave in the Queen's palace with no clue how to behave. When she watches another slave do his thing (and the tone of the text doesn't really imply any full on attraction to this guy, just a "Holy crap, they're whipping him for spilling the wine."), it's only right that she'd be wide eyed and looking at everything. If the Prince loves her so damn much, he should have petitioned to marry her instead of adding her to the general sex slave population.
As Beauty starts to get the hang of the place, it's apparent that all the other slaves are princesses and princes from neighboring lands sent to be slaves in the palace to make them better. Trial by fire. Get it. Still sick but I get it. It's law. They have to go or who knows what will happen to the kingdoms they come from. Until a conversation with another slave (yeah, I forget his name) reveals that these kids are NOT required to go. There's just peer pressure. One prince only went because all his siblings went and they'd tease him if he didn't go. What the flaming hell are these parents thinking!!!??? Why was there not some kind of revolution to stop this!? As a mother, I would never send my daughter to a place where she would be whipped and made to be at the sexual whims of a gaggle of people. And heaven fricking help you if you are continuously defiant! One prince got sent to the kitchens and the stables where he was repeatedly gang raped by the staff and left to hang in the garbage when they were done. No. No. NO!!
I made it through the first book where at the end, Beauty is deliberately disobedient and gets sent to the village as punishment. At this point, she's flat out curious about what could be worse than getting whipped, raped, and bound every other moment in the castle. Well, in the village, they do all that AND make you work. Carts are not pulled by horses, they are pulled by princes in harnesses and bits. All the slaves are to show DAILY signs of whippings and punishment. Punish, punish, punish. At least they can't cut you or break your bones. But they can hang you outside the shops naked and folded completely in half with your bits painted in honey so the flies come.
Did I mention there was never any given consent for this? And at no point is there an option for these people to say "Fuck this. I'm going home."? I really can't stress that enough.
Then these slaves talk about which master they can fall in love with, who will dominate them properly. Again, this is a mentality I can grasp from the S&M aspect of it. If you're in to slave/master play, you don't want someone to half-ass their role. But the whole thing smacks of Stockholm Syndrome and frightens me.
End of book two brings a slave raid where Beauty, Laurent, and Tristan are all taken to the Sultan's kingdom to serve as slaves there. Now to this kingdom, slaves to not talk. They are LOWER than beasts, they are sculptures. Literally, they decorate the walls. At this point, I just sorta accept the book and the world within it for what it is and go along with the ride. The Queen's standing order with the Sultan is that he can come and steal some little pretties to play with as long as he gives them back a year later. Beauty takes this in with an "Oh gee! I wonder what kind of master I'll get now!" The sort of thing every girl thinks when kidnapped, I'm sure. :p
Now there are entire pages I'm just skimming through. Beauty gets petted by the Sultan's harem; Laurent and Tristan get to bed the Sultan and chase balls (literally) across the room, Laurent gets to play master with some guy who seriously isn't important to me anymore. He's the guy in charge of getting pretty slaves for the Sultan or whatever.
Beauty also meets the head concubine, Inanna, who has undergone some pretty horrific genital mutilation to ensure (at least in the minds of the men around her) she can't feel any pleasure. Beauty takes great pleasure in changing her mind. Then there's a rescue because Tristan's master Nicolas just loves Tristan to Reeces Pieces and has to have him back. They all want to stay because it's better than the village so Nicolas rounds up the slaves and forces them back on the boat. They all go home. Beauty is released, because the Queen just can't stand how much her son, The Prince, likes her and Tristan and Laurent are to spent the next year pulling carts as ponies. No, this does not free them from being raped or molested regularly.
By now, the word "rape" is dropped by the characters as casually as "Yes, Master" so when I'm using it here, it's because THEY used it in the book. Now, I've read a lot of hurt/comfort fanfics and even with the freedom of the interwebz, it just seems to be accepted that rape is a bad thing and many authors treat the scene they have to write it in with a certain amount of dread. It's something out of the ordinary, a deviation, unacceptable. Yet here, it is not only accepted, it's normal, it's routine, it's REQUIRED. That is very disturbing.
The ending lost me, too. Tristan doesn't seem to give a fuck where he is. He'd just as soon be a pony as in the Sultan's palace. Laurent's father dies and he goes home to claim the throne. Beauty goes home and turns down every prince who comes to ask her to marry him and she makes one of them her slave for one night then tells him to get out. Now that Laurent is a prince, he comes over puts some kind of toy in her, and says "You're my wife now. Get the fuck on my horse and lets go." She is yippy skippy to have found the perfect master after all this time and they ride off into the sunset and I put the book down with the most perfect "What the fuck" face you could ever imagine. I'm amazed it didn't get stuck that way.
If you can get past the consent, yes, this is an erotic adventure in lush prose. I was advised to read it because I was told about the beautiful descriptions in it and in this, this book did not fail me at all. They are not BAD, per se. Twilight is bad. The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy is beautifully twisted. WAY too twisted for me to ever read again. I closed the last book feeling like I'd done something wrong which is not what I should feel when I finish a book. The Story of O, didn't do that at all.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some brainfloss that needs using.