This review was written by…
Entwined by Heather Dixon
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: March 21, 2011
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository US/UK
Source: ARC sent to Tynga by Harper Collins Canada, lent to Moonlight Gleam
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.
The opening scene describes Princess Azalea, the eldest of twelve girls, getting ready to attend her first Yuletide Ball for her coming of age. Before she attends the ball, she visits her very ill mother who is pregnant with the twelfth princess. Her mother encourages Azalea to dance with all the fine gentlemen and find one that she admires most. Azalea is then asked to promise the Queen to watch over and take care of her younger sisters. What should have been a wonderful evening soon turns into sadness when the Queen dies at childbirth. The princesses and their father, the King, begin their year of mourning as the tradition of their culture dictates. During this period, the princesses are to wear black dresses, stay in doors, curtains drawn, and are forbidden to do what they love most, dance.
When the King goes off to war, they discover a magical passage to an enchanted forest within the castle walls. There they meet Keeper, a charming, handsome, and mysterious man who possesses incredible magic powers. He encourages the princesses to return each night to dance in secrecy, in exchange for a promise that they would help him escape his imprisonment there. The girls also take a personal oath, preventing them from telling anyone where they go each night to dance. When the King returns from war and discovers what the princesses were up to and of their oath, he places an advertisement for gentlemen who wish to visit the palace as guests. During their visit the men must attempt to solve the riddle of where the princesses dance in order to become Azalea’s husband and future King.
While all of this occurs, the princesses continue to visit the enchanted forest to escape mourning and to dance. Keeper’s abilities intrigue Azalea and her sisters however, once they discover who and what he truly is, it is too late for the princesses to go back on their word, putting everyone they care for at risk…
In the original tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses by The Brothers Grimm, the reasons for the princesses dancing each night or how they found the enchanted forest is never revealed to readers. Also, the men who cannot solve the riddle have their heads cut off however, in Entwined they are simply asked to leave the palace to allow another gentleman to have a go at it. An element I enjoyed was Heather Dixson’s addition to having the princesses named after flowers, plants, and in alphabetical order: Azalea, Bramble, Clover, Delphinium, Evening Primrose (Eve), Flora, Goldenrod, Hollyhock, Ivy, Jessamine, Kale, and Lily. Another aspect I enjoyed was how Heather Dixon stayed true to the original tale while giving it an intriguing spin.
Dancing was the main focus of the novel, the title Entwined stemming from the dance Entwine. This is illustrated through the memories of Azalea, where while alive, their mother taught the girls romantic dances such as the waltz and the Entwine. Although in mourning, the princesses cherish their mother’s memory through dancing which is also very symbolic. The strong sisterly and loving bond is evident in the novel. This is deepened through their dancing and closely kept secret. Another focus of the novel is romance. As royalty, rules dictate that a man shall be chosen for Azalea; however, she is given a window of opportunity to find true love thanks to the King. Her sisters also experience romance throughout the novel, encountering men who are very fond of the eldest ones Bramble and Clover.
Azalea and the King are definitely my favorite characters in the novel. Azalea is a brave, compassionate, and selfless protagonist who grows throughout the novel as a character, taking matters into her own hands and learns through her mistakes made along the way. Although the King is at first presented as bitter, cold, and careless in the first few chapters, readers soon discover that he is far the opposite, even wanting his daughters to find true love. There are many underlying messages presented in the novel, one being that love is more powerful than anything, especially a family bond. The main message being, that the magic within yourself is most important.
Heather Dixson’s writing style easily flows, describing rich and engaging characters, and beautiful setting flawlessly. The forest is also beautifully described. Her words will make you believe in all things magic, especially the magic within long after reading the last line.
Entwined is a remarkable debut that incorporates magic, romance, humor and will leave you rooting for the princesses until the very end. I recommend Entwined to those who enjoy Young Adult fiction, fairy tales and magic.