March 2011 by Greenwillow Books
Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.
The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And 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.
I read this book by the recommendation of one of my aunts. I've never gotten a bad recommendation from her, and this book was no exception. It was great.
The best part of the novel is definitely the relationships between characters. They are real. The princesses aren't prim and perfect; they lose their tempers and throw things at each other and say horrible things to their father and have selfish moments and foolish moments. However, aside from the oldest three, the princesses are a bit homogeneous I had a hard time keeping track of who was who. At the same time, having deeply developed characters is difficult when you have twelve of them that are so similar, so it's not the end of the world.
The interplay between the girls is great, and often funny, especially when the suitors come to call (I love Mr. Bradford and Lord Teddie). "That rotten shilling-punter nuffermonk" is probably the best insult outside of Shakespeare, who had some real doozies. I love the little moments of humor throughout the book: girls discovered spying on their sisters from inside trees, awkward and embarrassing dinner conversations, a finger biting tea set, etc.
There is just a touch of swoon-worthy romance with some wonderfully diversified love interests, but romance is not the focus of this retelling; the father-daughter relationship is, and I absolutely loved this. Since the princesses are the main characters, it's easy to focus on the loss of their mother, but Entwined addressed the oft-ignored King as a grieving husband who now doesn't know how to interact with his daughters. It hurts to think of his wife, but they remind him of her every time he sees them and that hurts, even though he loves them. Some reviewers have commented that the middle of the book moves too slowly, but I think they're missing this aspect of the story. The point of Entwined is not the curse and not romance, but this difficult relationship between a father and his daughters. Their relationship doesn't just magically get better; it improves slowly with many wrong starts and steps backwards. It's difficult and messy. I loved this slow progression, but I can see how the lack of action would irk some readers.
What did bug me about the plot was the climax. I like slow builds to epic conflicts with huge finishes and satisfying resolutions. This climax felt like a whole bunch of little fights strung together. It was a bit too much stop and go. This being said, I couldn't put it down until I finished it, so it wasn't a huge problem. Another small hiccup: I never found Mr. Keeper compelling. He's supposed to be this suave, mysterious potential love interest, but I was only ever creeped out by him. Perhaps this was because I'm the reader and I know what part he's supposed to play, but still.
Entwined is my favorite retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" that I have read so far. Usually the girls are cursed or enchanted into dancing, but these princesses started out just trying to escape the strict rules of mourning and a father who doesn't understand them. The fairy tale didn't dominate the story; it just provided the framework. Dixon made the story into her own enchanting tale.
And bonus points for the book, the Heather Dixon is awesome. Check out her blog sometime. She's the type of person I would love to be friends with. She walks down the streets in public singing and acting out all the parts to musical numbers from animated movies. I thought I was alone in this practice!
So, great book. Pick it up. Don't expect tons of action or loads or romance, but a sweet and real story of how a family copes with loss. And the cover is shiny!