In a tiny kingdom there were twelve princesses. On the night of the smallest princess’ birth, their hearts were broken and their mother taken too soon. After years of dancing and laughter, their castle is thrust into mourning–the once happy home darkened by black clothes and their father’s grief.
One day the princesses found a magical land of silver and music. A mysterious and dashing stranger known only as Keeper presides over this strange landscape where the girls can dance every night until the slippers on their feet wear thin.
But nothing lasts forever and, when magic is involved, nothing is as it seems in Entwined (2011) by Heather Dixon.
Entwined is essentially a retelling of the fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” which was originally published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812.* In this version the princesses are more proactive. The actual discovery of where the princesses dance also takes a slightly less prominent role to make way for the more sinister plot involving Keeper and his own agenda.
This is a fun book ideal for anyone who enjoys reading about princesses and castles. Azalea, the eldest, is an endearing heroine as are her sisters. While Bramble’s blunt nature and rash temper can wear thin the girls are all, really, very charming characters. Each princess is named after a flower (alphabetical order no less) which actually works quite well with the story and makes for a cute touch. With so many characters some do get lost in the shuffle or boil down to broad characterizations but again with so many characters at the center of a story that might be inevitable.
The story is original but by the end a lot of things are happening to Azalea instead of her being proactive. The lack of communication between the sisters toward the end of the story also felt unconvincing when they all appeared in every scene. (And some aspects of the love story angle felt thin.)
Dixon’s world building is solid. The castle with its dingy appearance and lackluster furnishings comes to life with her descriptions. The history behind the castle and the monarchy is well-presented and even the country’s relationship with other nations is mentioned although not in great detail. As with the characters I had this nagging feeling that while I loved what was on the page, I also wanted more.
One of the things I really liked about this story was the focus on family. As much as the dancing is a part of the story this is really a book about a father reconnecting with his daughters and a family moving on after a terrible loss. Being able to get that kind of book wrapped up in a fantasy makes this book something special. Entwined is an entertaining fantasy that will draw readers in with a familiar premise only to deliver a story that is ultimately surprising and appealing.
*WARNING: These might constitute SPOILERS but read on if you want to know what elements Dixon keeps from the original story. Entwined features 12 princesses, a magic land of silver, and the girls do dance until their shoes wear out. They are not locked in each night. The men who try to solve the riddle are not beheaded. While the hero who solves the riddle is a soldier, he is not old (no one in this story is very old) but he does have an invisibility cloak of sorts. Except for the boats and princes to escort the girls across a lake (a trope found in Wildwood Dancing) this is a very faithful retelling.
loved everything but the story flagged toward the end–would have liked az to be stronger/more proactive. lack of communication also not convincing between the sisters
Pairings: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo, Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
Exclusive Bonus Content: I have a rule that I read anything and everything related to “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” but I was also drawn to this book because of its cover which I think is really interesting. (The vines also appear at the beginning of each chapter in the book.) My mom, on the other hand, thought the girl looked like she crawled out of a swamp–fair enough. While reading this book I was reminded a lot of Wildwood Dancing (another book with a great cover)–I’d definitely recommend reading both if you consider reading one as they provide nice counter-points to each other with different versions of the same fairy tale.