Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Book #30: Entwined

Growing up, I had a beautifully-illustrated picture book version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I found the story completely enchanting, and for years after I stopped having it read to me at bedtime I still could recall the image of the twelve lovely princesses descending the magical staircase in their bedroom on their way to a night of dancing.

When I read a blurb about Heather Dixon's Entwined, I knew I had to give it a try because of my love for the Twelve Dancing Princesses tale. This YA novel is a creative retelling of the familiar story. Azalea and her eleven younger sisters are indeed princesses, and they love to dance. When their mother the queen dies, however, the King--the girls' father--mandates that the whole family shall be in mourning. For the girls this means drab clothing, not being able to venture into the palace gardens, and certainly no dancing. To make matters worse, Azalea and her sisters looked to their mother for all manner of familiar affection; the King seems entirely disinterested in showing them any such feeling.

When the girls figure out how to activate some of the old magic left in their palace home, they discover a magical, beautiful silver world full of fine ladies and gentleman, lovely music, and all the dancing they could want. A man who calls himself only "Keeper" is their escort and guide in this magical place, and he seems only to want for the princesses to enjoy themselves. As time goes on, however, Azalea starts to see that perhaps Keeper isn't so benevolent after all--and that perhaps their dancing will have repercussions worse than they could have imagined. Throw in some romantic intrigue which is creatively written to still fit the traditional story plot and you've got a solid, slightly eerie novel with equal bits of magic, family, love, and personal strength as themes.

I'd suggest this book to readers who were creeped out--in a good way--by the Crooked Man in John Connoly's The Book of Lost Things, who enjoy YA novels with fantasy elements and strong female characters, and who are intrigued by the possibilities offered by creative fairy tale retellings.

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