Saturday, July 30, 2011

Review: Entwined by Heather Dixon

Heather Dixon
March 29, 2011
Purchased for Kindle
Amazon Page
Goodreads Page
Grade: A (And I'm thinking of rebuying the hardcover for the gorgeousness of the cover)

Synopsis (from publisher): 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.

Review: I actually pre-ordered Entwined for my Kindle (and was completely startled when it magically downloaded at 4am on a Wednesday morning), but then for some odd reason, I read the first few pages, wasn’t impressed, and moved on to another book, regarding Entwined as a disappointment and reminder not to pre-order just because retold fairy tales are cool.

As it happens, retold fairy tales ARE cool, and not reading this one in March meant that while my Kindle was out at Glacier National Park with my mom a week ago, I was checking yet again through the library’s new YA arrivals and was seduced by the gorgeous cover of this book.

I started reading it this time while sitting on the porch, drinking coffee and hoping I wouldn’t have to move before I finished another few chapters.

This is a delightful retelling of Twelve Dancing Princesses from the point of view of the oldest princess and heir to the country, Azalea who’s trying to fulfill her promise to her dying mother to take care of her sisters even with the interference and apparent uncaring of their father the King. The sisters’ only happiness during their year of mourning is dancing, and when their father forbids it, Azalea finds a magical passage leading to a garden and its Keeper who invites the girls to dance every night. At nearly seventeen, she’s also struggling with growing up as the future Queen, knowing that Parliament will probably choose her husband instead of allowing her to fall in love, and managing the poverty of her family while still presenting the proper front as royalty.

Dixon’s writing throughout the book is lyrical and enchanting as befits the fairy tale atmosphere, but it never becomes too Disneyified. Her turns of phrase are both lovely and sometimes hilarious. I’m not someone who laughs aloud while reading very much, but Entwined had me giggling delightedly throughout.

Somehow each of the twelve sisters (all named alphabetically, each after a flower) has her own a personality and part to play in the story. In a lesser author’s hands, given the number of princesses, they easily could have turned into a sloppy conglomerate of names and character traits, but the relationship of the girls is one of the best parts of the book. They’re very close, especially while dealing with the shock of losing their beloved mother, but the closeness never becomes saccharine. All twelve are sisters who tease and mock, argue and throw potatoes at each other but above all are a (mostly) united force who want the best for their family and their country but especially want to be able to dance.

I found the action at the climax slightly confusing, but it wasn’t enough to make the conclusion difficult to follow or unenjoyable. On the contrary, the conclusion felt like the perfect end (as much as I’d like more about Azalea, Bramble, Clover, and the rest) to this book that I now consider one of my favourite of the past year.

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