Thursday, June 21, 2012
Azalea is the oldest of twelve girls to the royal family of a modest kingdom and she holds a lot of responsibility. After the birth of her eleventh sister, her mother tragically dies, leaving her and her hoard of sisters with their distant and cold father. Now that they are in mourning, they must shun many of the activities they enjoyed when their mother was alive, including wearing colorful dresses, attending parties, and dancing. Azalea, after being victim to her father's constant disappointment and disapproval, stumbles upon a secret room in the castle that leads to a mysterious and beautiful silver forest. In this forest dwells a mysterious man called the Keeper who seems nice at first, giving the girls a place to dance, slippers to dance in, and people to dance with. As times goes on, he gets more sinister and creepy, forcing the girls to return night after night with threats. How will Azalea save her sisters from the Keeper and keep her father ignorant of their troubles?
This is a retelling of a The 12 Dancing Princesses that far surpasses the original. I just read it this past year in a fairy tales class and I just found it weird. The princesses seem like creepy, frivolous sociopaths who don't really care that people regularly die trying to figure out where they dance at night. This retelling takes those sociopathic girls and actually makes them relatively normal, if a little rambunctious and energetic. I immediately liked Azalea and her sisters, who all have been alphabetically named after some sort of plant (Azalea, Bramble, Clover, Delphinium, etc.). I thought 12 sisters would be too much to keep track of, but most of the girls had such defined, bold, and different personalities that they were hard to forget. The eldest 3 sisters are the main characters of the work, but the others still have significant roles. Azalea, Bramble, and Clover could not be more different. Azalea is the most like her mother, taking care of her sisters and shouldering a lot of responsibility, while Bramble is the most energetic and fun loving. Clover is the most reserved and quiet, but will stand up for what she believes in when it matters. All of the sisters loved and cared for each other even when everyone else basically abandoned them after their mother's death. I liked all of them except for Delphinium, who was endlessly annoying and pessimistic.
I enjoyed the role dancing and magic played in the novel. The close knit siblings weren't as frivolous as their fairy tale counterparts seemed to be. There was no defined reason for the dancing that had grave consequences in the original tale. In Entwined, the girls used dancing as a coping mechanism for their grief and to still feel close to their mother in some way. It also serves as a way for Azalea to teach her sisters about discipline, poise, and proper demeanor. The magic aspects of the world aren't immediately apparent, but kind of sneak up on you as you read. It starts small with an ill tempered magic tea set and ends with magical silver, enchanted passages, and an creepy villain with dark magic. I liked how the magic in the castle was really a relic of the past, enchanted by a past king, and people just didn't know how much magic was there or how to unenchant it. I enjoyed the understated and believable magic as well as the role dancing played for the sisters.
Entwined breathes new life into the flat characters and bizarre story of the 12 Dancing Princesses. I loved the romance, magic, emotions, characters, and relationships portrayed. I would definitely read anything else Heather Dixon writes in the future.
My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins