When I read the blurb on the cover of Mercedes Lackey’s The Gates of Sleep, I recognized the general outline of a GU story, but didn’t realize that it would be a re-telling of the Sleeping Beauty tale – which is interesting because the original fairytale isn’t really a GU prototype like many others. This mostly comes down to an issue of volition and confrontation of the adversary – the fairytale protagonist is merely rescued by a prince, whereas Lackey’s character Marina must fight on her own.
Marina comes from a family of Elemental Mages, and she herself has an affinity for the powers and spirits of Water. At her christening, her wicked aunt curses her, and to protect her she is sent away by her parents, to live with their magician/artist friends. She learns magic, but nothing of her own history. As she nears her eighteenth birthday (the deadline of the curse), events occur to force her into the control of her aunt, and she is thrust into a new and unwanted life. Along the way, she makes allies amongst the servants and villagers, and uncovers a larger evil being perpetrated by her aunt and cousin. (As well as, of course, falling in love.) When her aunt finally makes her move, Marina’s friends can help, but she must face her aunt alone in a final, magical battle.