Entwined by Heather Dixon
When I was fairly young, I started reading the original versions of fairy tales—the ones with blood and terror and other assorted nastiness. I grew fond of the stories that hadn’t been sanitized, because they were the ones that really packed a punch. It’s probably why I love a good fairy tale retelling today. One of the best ones that I’ve read recently is Entwined, a superb reimagining of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Just when Azalea should feel that everything is before her—beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing—it’s taken away. All of it. And Azalea is trapped. The Keeper understands. He’s trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. So he extends an invitation.
Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest, but there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.”
As I read this novel, it slowly dawned on me what’s so very impressive about it: every one of the princesses (minus the infant Lily), the father, the antagonist, and the two men who are most often in the palace all have distinct personalities. That’s an awful lot of people to turn into unique entities! And it’s especially noteworthy when you realize that the eleven girls are close in age, live in the same circumstances and dress similarly too. Their individual quirks and habits had me smiling often as I read. I must admit to a fondness for Bramble, the second oldest sister, because her prickly personality livens up the story on a regular basis.
I also have to give credit to Dixon for her portrayal of the king. Initially, he comes across as kind of a jerk, but the author is actually giving you a portrait of a man sunk in grief. Readers are essentially seeing it through the eyes of his daughters, though, and their pain over their mother’s death clouds their view of their father. I loved watching his character unfold and gradually become warmer as the story goes on.
While this book is based in the original fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”, the novel departs from the source in some significant ways. For one thing, the girls are not dancing against their will; for another, their salvation is most definitely in their own hands; and yet another, the antagonist has more power than the fairy tale gives him. I liked these differences, as I think they strengthened the story that Dixon was telling in this version.
The plot has much more depth than just “twelve girls go dancing every night and no one knows why”. Their kingdom is in turmoil, and their relationship with their father is contentious. The older girls are expected to marry and secure the succession, although they are at the mercy of the kingdom’s council in their choice of husband. And there is old magic running around the royal palace that encompasses more than just a little surreptitious dancing. There’s a lot going on, but Dixon pulls it all together into a seamless whole. Couple that with the wonderful cast of characters that the author has created, and this is a book that I have no trouble recommending to readers of any age.
I bought Entwined on a whim and found it to be one of the most enjoyable stories that I’ve read this year. It’s a solid tale populated by a diverse bunch of characters, and the story provides both suspense and light moments. This is an excellent novel for teenage girls looking for something more than vampires and ghosts, but I think adults will find it a good read as well.
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on December 11, 2012.