Summary: After the death of their mother, Princess Azalea and her eleven sisters find themselves confined to the castle in mourning, forbidden even to visit the gardens. Their father in his grief begins to ignore them, leaving the girls even more desolate. When they find a secret passageway to an underground world, they grasp the opportunity to dance there each night, forgetting their troubles. There in the darkness, however, lurks a man known as the Keeper, who longs for the power to free himself and visit the land above. The princesses soon realize they have placed themselves in extreme danger, but, unless they can learn to forgive their father and place their trust in him again, everything may be lost. A retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.”
Review: Heather Dixon places her unique mark on this retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” in a number of ways. She elaborates on the relationship between the princesses and their father, individualizes each of the princesses and focuses on particular struggles they face, introduces more than one romance, and has the princesses themselves willingly keep the secret of their nightly dances. Each of these creative decisions helps flesh out the story; the princesses become real people with real problems, instead of working as mere number or unit. The result is a tender portrait of what it means to be a family.
The father in the story often acts a mere catalyst. He forbids the princesses to leave the castle, thereby setting into motion a series of events that endangers the girls and possibly the kingdom, then, after advertising for help, disappears. Dixon’s vision of a king distraught by the death of his wife and distancing himself from his daughters even as he needs their help to move on, rings much more true. It complicates the relationship between the princesses and their father, and gives them a realistic reason not only to desire to escape from the castle, but also to continue to hide their activities. Generally the princesses continue to dance only under compulsion; here they find dance a respite from their troubles at home.
Adding to the realism of the story is the unique personality of each of the sisters. Azalea, the eldest, acts as the leader of the group, feeling it her responsibility to look after the others in place of their mother. Bramble, the second eldest, scorns ladylike behavior and generally provides humor with her sharp retorts and penchant for trouble. Clover is quiet and delicate, but harbors unexpected strength. Each of the princesses is named and characterized as an individual. They also have a group personality, however, with which any girl with sisters will surely relate. They look to each other for strength, cling to each other in trouble, and tease each other mercilessly about potential suitors. Some of them may prove annoying at times, but they always recognize how fortunate they are to have each other.
Dixon goes farther than characterizing each of the twelve, however. She gives several of them their own storyline, as interesting as that of the eldest—the one, readers will recall, who gets to marry the man who discovers their secret. In this story, the men who come to learn where the girls wear out their shoes each night receive individual treatment as well. Several of them appear for comedic effect, but others have their eyes on someone other than Azalea. Since something inevitably complicates romance, the other girls have their own obstacles to overcome before they, too, can find a happily-ever-after.
The intertwining of these various themes and plotlines creates a beautiful and believable story focused on sisterhood, family, and the nature of love. Readers will feel as if they truly know the girls and will invest themselves fully in their story, sharing their pain and their laughter. Dixon’s Entwined is truly magical.
Goodreads: The Princess Curse
Summary: Twelve princesses suffer from a curse where they wake up every morning tired and with their shoes in tatters. Reveka, the apprentice of the castle’s herbalist, thinks she can find a way to make herself invisible and break the spell, even though everyone else who has tried has disappeared or fallen fast asleep.
Review: The Princess Curse is a very original retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” as the character striving to unravel the curse is not a dashing young man, but rather a spunky thirteen-year-old herbalist’s apprentice. This creative decision leads the focus of the story away from the princesses and onto Reveka, who is clever if not beautiful and fair if not always kind, and onto the prince who cast the curse in the first place. The effect is that the story reads very much like fantasy, but not always like a fairy tale. Reveka and Dragos, lord of the Underworld, are too complex to belong in a standard fairy tale, and their motives are often politically and rationally inspired, which is unusual for the genre. Haskell has not simply expanded or filled in the holes of a well-loved story, but has used the main plot idea to write a book that is a story very much its own. It will not sound familiar no matter how many retellings the reader has encountered before.
The book’s biggest strength is the imagination behind the plotline. Usually the father of the twelve dancing princesses wants the curse broken because he just loves his daughters so much. Prince Vasile does love his daughters—but there is also the problem here that if none of them marry and produce an heir soon, the country will be invaded. And no one will marry them because every man who has tried has disappeared or slipped into an unending sleep. The entire kingdom has a stake in the fate of the princesses because two rival countries are pushing for war, and the country has already been ravaged by the Turks. The reader will also discover that the lords of the Underworld have a stake in the fate of the country, too. Read the rest of this entry
Summary: Rachel Durham and her eleven sisters are tired of all the rules imposed upon them by their father and their church. The discovery of a secret passage that leads to an enchanted island gives them freedom during the night. Paul, a young soldier returned from the war, fears, however, that everything on the island is not quite as it seems. He prays his determination and skill can save twelve girls from danger, but may have to rely on faith alone. A retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.”
Note: The Midnight Dancers is the fourth Fairy Tale Novel published by Regina Doman. The first three compose a trilogy, but this one works as a stand-alone. One the main characters, Paul, does appear as a minor character in the third novel, Waking Rose, but readers need not be familiar with the trilogy to understand and enjoy this book.
Review: Regina Doman has always made an effort to illustrate in the Fairy Tale Novels how the fantastic can reveal the true reality, and she has accomplished that admirably in the first three installments. The magical collides with the previously mundane, transforming our perception of our lives. The Midnight Dancers, however, almost makes the other novels seem clunky because it achieves a realism the others do not. Read the rest of this entry
Briana: Retellings of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” are among the most common, and so it is much to George’s credit that she manages both to bring some originality to the subject and, indeed, to pen one of the best of the retellings. Her version may not be among the “completely turned on its head so one barely recognizes the inspiration” type, but it does more than simply flesh out the already existing outline. For one, the reader is utterly convinced that the hero soldier may not be able to help the princesses, after all; such is the magnitude and the reality of the danger with which he is faced. Read the rest of this entry
Summary: The thirteenth daughter to a king who only wanted a son, Zita works in the kitchen as a servant so her father never has to remember the night she was born—and her mother died. Her twelve sisters live as royalty upstairs, forbidden to communicate with Zita. When the twelve princesses mysteriously fall ill, however, only the kitchen girl recognizes an enchantment as the cause. Aided by a stable boy and a soldier, Zita will risk her life to save her family and prove that love truly can conquer all. A retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” Read the rest of this entry