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The fairy tale lover in me rejoiced to see a new take on one of my all-time favorite tales, The Twelve Dancing Princesses. It's been done before, yes--and done well at that. ENTWINED by Heather Dixon and PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL by Jessica Day George immediately come to mind. Both are more literal interpretations of the tale. MIDNIGHT MASQUERADE, however reminds of me more of THE PRINCESS CURSE by Merrie Haskell. The main character is an outsider looking in, not one of the twelve cursed princesses. It is also completely its own tale. The heroine, Evony, is entwined in the lives of the princesses in a mysterious way that adds a fresh spin to the classic tale.
Evony and her siblings live on their own, albeit in poverty. Evony works for a local seamstress, where she's paid only enough to survive. One day, after handing over the last of her money for breakfast eggs, she's nearly run over by a nobleman and his horse. She later finds out he is Prince Stavos, come to crack the curse and receive a princess' hand in marriage as a reward. Evony helps him to the best of her ability, but can't stop herself from falling for him...even though he can never be hers.
Romantic and lush, McClure introduces readers to a new version of a classic tale in an intriguing way. The book is a fast, easy read that you can fall right into. Readers will truly feel for Evony and her plight, and also come to love Stavos. My only complaint with the novel came when the POV switched to Stavos. I understand that McClure was attempting to keep things mysterious for as long as possible, but it annoyed me that Stavos seemed so flummoxed by things when we saw his narrative, only to have always known the answers later on. I didn't like the mixed nature that came from this. It was my only major annoyance, however, and I genuinely enjoyed the novel and the way the tale was re-spun. In fact, one of my favorite aspects is the way the book doesn't rely on magic. The tale is told in such a way that something like this could certainly have occurred in real life! In this sense, it reminds me of one of my all-time favorite fairy tale retellings, HEART'S BLOOD by Juliet Marillier, which takes all the magic out of Beauty and the Beast to create something grounded and realistic. The fact that McClure also chose this route is exciting and more original in an often-done genre than you might expect! If you're a fan of fairy tales and/or The Twelve Dancing Princesses, THE MIDNIGHT MASQUERADE is right up your alley!
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