The Twelve Dancing Princesses has always been my favorite fairy tale. While the gorgeous cover is what initially made me see what Heather Dixon's debut novel, Entwined, was all about, the fact that it retold this tale made it a Day One Buy for me. Lush and descriptive, Entwined brings the tale to life like never before. I loved the way Dixon extracted the best parts of the story and tweaked other aspects, making the story fresh and vibrant. It manages to remain true to the original tale while still becoming its own entity, which can be hard to pull off when creating a new version.
Despite the fact that there are twelve princesses involved in this tale, Dixon uses a creative way of allowing readers to remember who's who by naming them alphabetically. Our main character, Azalea, is the crown princess, followed by her sisters, Bramble, Clover, Delphinium, Evening Primrose (Eve), Flora, Goldenrod, Hollyhock, Ivy, Jessamine, Kale, and Lily. Not only are they all named after plants and flowers, the very fact that they're named such reveals the way their father the king leads a very structured lifestyle. This trick is also good for readers. The girls are all about a year apart; Azalea is fifteen at the novel's start and baby Lily is a newborn. If readers are confused about why Ivy is acting like a child, for example, it's easy to figure out that she's one of the youngest princesses.
The book starts off with Azalea getting ready for her first yuletide ball now that she's finally of age. We immediately see how important dancing is to her. I love the way Dixon fleshes out this interest and turns it into an entity of its own. Even the novel's title, Entwined, is based on a dance called the Entwine, which is a clever twist (that taught me something new, no less!). In the original fairy tale, we never know why the princesses go dancing each night or how they found the enchanted forest in the first place. In Entwined, however, we're with the girls every step of the way. We see how they're no longer allowed to dance after their mother passes away during childbirth. They feel stifled during their year of mourning. They find the enchanted forest within the walls of the castle quite by mistake, but through it, can cherish their mother's memory through dance, a need no one but the princesses can comprehend. Love interests are introduced early on, allowing time for love to blossom. The man in charge of the enchanted dance, Keeper, is mysterious and written in such a way, my arms got goosebumps as I read. The forest itself is gorgeous and I could see it in my mind's eye. Because Dixon focused on making the fairy tale's nemesis so dark, she maintained a light balance in the "real world." Unlike in the original, men aren't put to death if they're unable to discover how the girls manage to dance the night away. I appreciated this aspect and loved meeting all of the potential suitors. Lord Teddy and Mr. Bradford were my favorite characters. Lord Teddy stole the show every time he appeared on a page, creating many laugh-out-loud moments.
Overall, I love the way Dixon kept to the traditional tale while still giving us something new and unique. Entwined is almost five hundred pages, and when I first picked it up, I wondered how it could take so long to tell the story. The pacing remained even and never dragged. Once the story sucked me in, it was impossible to put down. The Twelve Dancing Princesses is still a favorite of mine, especially this version of the classic tale.
As much as I loved the cover upon first seeing it online, I adore it even more after having read the book. There are silver foil branches on the cover, representing the trees that appear in the enchanted forest. In addition, these silver branches appear at the start of each new chapter:
The palace is in the distance, and one of the princesses (presumably Azalea) can be seen either looking u pat it or running toward it, depending on how you look at the picture. She's wearing a gorgeous dress, but on closer inspection, the dress is tinged with dirt as though she's returning home after dancing the night away. I also love the texture of the dress; it reminds me of crinkly chiffon.
[This entry is part of The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge of 2011. See how I've done so far here.]
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