Size: 480 pages
Release Date: March 29, 2011
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: ARC from Amazon Vine
Rating: 4/5 stars
I got an advanced reading copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program. I love the fairy tale of the twelve dancing princesses and was excited to read a retelling of it. It is a good retelling, although it starts off a bit slow.
Azalea (aka Lea) is the eldest of twelve daughters. When her mother passes away she is the lady of their house. With her father gone at war (and avoiding any contact with them prior to his departure) and her sisters banned from any kind of revelry for the period of mourning she is desperate for a way to amuse her depressed sisters. Then she stumbles upon a secret passage in their room that leads to a secret ballroom where a mysterious man named Keeper lets the princesses dance their hearts away. Of course there is a cost for this revelry that is darker than they could have imagined.
Dixon does an excellent job juggling the twelve sisters without the readers becoming confused. They are named in alphabetical order, a clever trick that lets the reader remember who is the youngest and the oldest. The story mainly focuses on the three oldest sisters who are of age: Azalea, Bramble, and Clover. All of them have distinct personalities, are likable, and are interesting to read about.
Much of the story focuses around dance; many types of dances are discussed and the dances themselves have some magic to them. There is more magic in general incorporated into this story than in previous retellings I have read. I loved that the magic and the mysterious Keeper are well woven into the history and politics in the realm.
I did have some problems with this story. It starts out very slowly. It takes about a quarter of the book for the sisters to even discover the secret passage; the events that come before are meant to set up the story and convey the princesses’ boredom, and they do. They also bore the reader. The story picks up later as the suitors start arriving at the castle, but even this is slow at parts. If some of this had been cut out and the story tightened up it would have been an absolutely terrific story.
The story ends well and should please readers. There is also a sense of sisterly-love and family throughout that is heartwarming and makes the reader really pull for these girls and hope that everything will end up okay.
You can’t help but compare this book to Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. I think I like this version a bit better than that one, but it moves at a slower pace. I think Dixon does a better job of painting a picture of the underground Ballroom and really pulling the reader into it. I also think Dixon created a much creepier villain in Keeper than George did in her version of the story. The biggest difference between the two is that in George’s version the girls dance as a punishment, in this version they start dancing because they desperately want to.
Overall a solid fairy tale retelling, I enjoyed reading it. If you love fairy tale retelllings this is one to check out, it is very well done. If you enjoy the story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses in general you may also want to check out Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George; it is similar in quality and a slightly different take on the story.