Monday, May 2, 2011
Author: Heather Dixon
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (March 29, 2011)
Oh, I love fairy tale retellings. This book takes on the fabulous Twelve Dancing Princesses tale, and does it with aplomb. Azalea and her sisters (alphabetically and botanically named, including the unfortunate Kale) must find a way to defeat the extrememly evil Keeper who has tricked them into dancing in his midnight pavilion.
Azalea and her sisters are so very wonderful, although the names are a bit rough. Bramble? Even though she was the prickly sister, any mother naming her tiny infant daughter would be much more likely to go for the B options of Begonia, Bluebell or Buttercup, it seems to me. And I'm sure that the queen was just desperately hoping that baby eleven would be a boy, but Kale still pulled me out of the story every time she was mentioned. Poor sweet little girl.
Ahem. Anyway. The relationship between the sisters was lovely, and very well done. As someone with 5 sisters, I was completely unsurprised to read in the Author Bio that Heather Dixon has 6. She definitely nailed the bickering, love and teasing inherent in a big family. Azalea was a great big sister, determined to take care of everyone after their mother dies, and although A-D were the most defined, E-K (and tiny, heart-breaking L) were still charmingly drawn. I loved Bramble, who reminded me of the second out of my 5 sisters to a rather startling degree, as well as Clover, whose love story made me laugh.
But Azalea is definitely the star of the show. She is smart, and determined, and fierce. Her strength and courage in the face of the sincerely creepy Keeper was awesome, and her romance was just as wonderful. All of the love stories are woven (entwined! hah....) sweetly throughout the tale, and each was perfect for the girl involved.
And, of course, there is dancing. Any tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses must have dancing, but Heather Dixon manages to imbue this story with so much love for the grace and flow of movement in a good dance that I wished I could dance as I read it. I wanted to get up and give a Soul's Curtsy, or dance the Entwine (but not with Keeper, that's for sure.) It is very impressive how strongly her descriptions of dance inspired me!
Oh, let's just come out and say it: I loved this book. I haven't even gotten into the tangled relationship between the King and his daughters, or how much I loved Lord Bradford, but I feel like I've nattered enough. When I first began the book, it took me a chapter or so to get into it (and let go of being annoyed by the names...) and I thought it would be a clear second to the other Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling I haven read in the last year, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. By the end, I was utterly won over, and am flummoxed. I loved both! For now, I'll say they're tied. Read both! More fairy tale retellings for everyone!