Author: Heather Dixon
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Fairy-tale Retelling/Family
Summary: 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.- Greenwillow Books, 2011.
Due to the time of the year, this took me a lot longer to read than it should have. This is a YA book, so it's easy enough to read. As always, spoilers will be kept to the minimum.
As implied by the summary, this is essentially a re-telling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale. I enjoyed it immensely due its intricate plot and characters. Dixon doesn't have the problem that other YA writers I've encountered lately have. She is confident in her story and uses the proper amount of time to tell it. Everything in the plot is well-connected, makes sense, and she doesn't leave any open plot threads. She doesn't bring in unnecessary complications and doesn't try to make the plot more grandiose than it needs to be.
I'm not as familiar with the original fairy tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses as with other fairy tales. This isn't adapted or re-told as much as, say, Snow White or Cinderella. Dixon only keeps the two major plot points of the story - the twelve princesses go out somewhere every night to dance in secret and the king holds a contest to find out where exactly they've been going.
Dixon weaves her story around these two points and does so in an engaging way. It might seem difficult to create unique personalities for twelve individual princesses, Dixon manages to do so. One might argue that she chooses to make one trait of each princess her defining characteristic and therefore doesn't entirely succeed in creating an individual voice for each princess. I wouldn't hold it against her though as she does succeed in making each princess unique enough to remember them and what kind of girl they are whenever they speak or are mentioned within the story.
The story primarily focuses on the importance of family and the power of familial bonds. Azalea and her sisters don't have a very loving relationship with their father because of who he is (the king) and the circumstances surrounding their requirement to dance in secret. The royal family, in a different take I've rarely seen, is not financially stable. They're actually quite poor and their position as royals is ceremonial at best. There is a degree of power that the king wields, but he also must act in line with a Parliament that is the main force of government. Despite their poverty, the girls are raised well by their mother, who passes away within the first few chapters of the novel due to illness. Left with a father who has never been particularly fatherly, the girls find themselves with an emotional hole that, it seems, will not be filled by their only remaining parent.
Due to the strict rules of mourning, the girls are heavily restricted in their activities. The curtains are drawn, they must always wear black, and all of their mother's possessions are locked away out of their reach. They are not allowed to enjoy any contact with the outside world to the point where all of the clocks in the castle are stopped so they cannot even tell time. As their strongest reminder of their mother is dancing, the girls feel the constraints of mourning very hard.
Finding the secret passage in their room leads them to a magical landscape where The Keeper resides. He is trapped there by an unknown force and, while is he beguiling at first, Azalea and her sisters can't help but be unnerved by him. Even so, they accept his offer of using his domain as a place where they can dance freely without any repercussions from their father. However, the more they visit the strange land, the deeper they find themselves in a darker plot than they could have anticipated.
One of the choices Dixon makes is not to make this novel about girl power. It's not about being free and independent women who make their own decisions without being free from consequences. While the girls are discovering themselves and their voices, Dixon makes it a minor, subtle point that weaves itself with the other threads of which the novel is comprised.
Romance is also one of these minor threads. While Azalea and two of her sisters find love in their own ways, it doesn't overpower the other lessons that Dixon communicates within the story. It is, as I said earlier, about family, growing as a family, and the importance of communication. It's about looking at each other honestly without previous prejudice and experience coloring judgment.
Overall, I think that Entwined is a very good book with memorable characters and a plot that is endearing and entertaining.
I give Entwined an A+.
Please support the author by buying the book at your bookstore or by borrowing it from a friend or your library.
Thanks for reading!