by Heather Dixon
Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication date: March 29, 2011
Suggested tags: young adult, fantasy, fairy tales, retellings
"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."
Fairy tale retellings are totally my thing. I've got a few of my own versions in the works among the YA novels-in-progress I've been writing. So when I heard about Entwined, a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, it was on my to-read list immediately. I was really excited to read it, and perhaps my hopes were a little too high, but it just didn't quite live up to what I expected.
Don't get me wrong: Dixon is an excellent writer who weaves a very elegant prose. In fact, her writing alone was so good that I knew I couldn't give this book less than 3 stars. There are scenes that are beautifully detailed, scenes that are touching and sweet, and scenes that are hilarious. She gives her characters some great quirky lines, one of my favorites being:
"Down with tyranny!" Bramble cried. "Aristocracy! Autocracy! Monocracy! Other ocracy things! You are outnumbered, sir! Surrender!"
But the feeling that developed as I read was that she's a wonderful writer who is trying to dress up a slow, wandering plot. The storyline gets a little repetitive as the girls go to the silver forest every night and do basically the same thing every time. Issues with their father and budding romances for the older girls are added into the mix, but it still didn't really hold my attention. (Although the scenes with Lord Teddie, Bramble's suitor, were some of my favorites in the book. And they also involved another of my favorite quirky quotes:)
"He's around the twist," said Azalea. "Breaking all the windows? He's mad."
"Ah, no," said the King. "It's only madness if you actually do it. If you want to break all the windows in the house and drown yourself in a bucket but don't actually do it, well, that's love."
There were a few things that were never really explained (to my satisfaction, anyway). Such as why the royal family was poor. Or why, although Azalea began to get the feeling that Keeper was dangerous, she kept allowing her sisters to visit him every night. Wouldn't that fall under her promise to her mother to protect them? There were also a few things that were a bit irritating. Such as the fact that Azalea apparently really likes to dig her fingernails into her palms in anger, because she must do this at least once per chapter. And the fact that Azalea sometimes seems to not really put a lot of forethought into her visits to the silver forest. (SPOILER - highlight to read: She sees her mother there with her lips sewn shut and reaches for the scissors she always carries in her pocket, but they are not there. If I were Azalea, and I saw my dead mother (or at least her spirit) trapped in an enchanted part of my house, I would be down there every spare moment trying to save her. I would not let my younger sisters go near a place where such mysterious and possibly dangerous things were happening. And for goodness sake, I would NOT forget to bring a pair of scissors the next time I went there! But apparently, Azalea and I do not think along the same lines.)
That being said, there was a lot about the book that I really did enjoy. Dixon's writing, as I said before, was delightful. I would not hesitate for a moment to read another book she had written. And I loved the details she gives in Entwined of dancing and dresses. It was all very romantic and luxurious; it made me feel like I was a part of that world of old-fashioned royalty in a far away land. But I really wish Dixon had played up the dance of the Entwine a little more. It's described beautifully at the very beginning of the book, and I was envisioning this dramatic, climactic scene where Azalea and Keeper alternately entwine and evade, with the end of the dance determining Azalea's fate. Unfortunately, this never really came to pass the way I had hoped. They do dance the Entwine, but it just didn't do it for me. I wanted more.
And ultimately, that was how I felt about the book as a whole: it simply left me wanting more.
Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars
(This did not factor into my rating, but I just have to mention that I read this as an audiobook and the narrator was perhaps one of the most annoying narrators I have ever heard. She had a beautiful accent, and usually I appreciate when narrators give each character a distinct voice. But for some reason, this narrator's little voices for all 12 sisters just drove me up a wall.)