Entwined – Heather Dixon
Greenwillow Books, 2011
Fairy tale adaptations have a lot to live up to. The more I like the original, the higher my expectations of the reimagining, and I am very fond of the fairy tale that serves as foundation for Heather Dixon’s YA fantasy Entwined. ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’ (also known as ‘The Shoes Which Were Danced To Pieces’) is an ambitious choice, with a cast of at least twelve sisters and a rather murderous storyline.
In Dixon’s rather cleaner version, twelve impoverished young princesses live together in a pseudo-Victorian world where magic lingers in small traces, such as hidden passageways and an aggressive tea set. Isolated from their restrictive father after their mother’s death, the girls turn to dancing as a means of comfort and are heartbroken when this, too, is forbidden. When they discover a secret passage in their bedroom that leads down to a beautiful pavilion and the enigmatic magician Keeper, it seems the answer to all their dreams. But no one is exactly what they seem, and Keeper least of all.
There are high recommendations from other authors all over the hardback edition I borrowed from the library, including Elizabeth C. Bunce and Aprilynne Pike, but it just didn’t work for me. The main character of Azalea didn’t have enough strength of personality for my taste, and her romantic interest was underdeveloped. It’s never a good sign when the most interesting characters are the ones you’re not meant to like. Some of the princesses’ names felt too cutesy (Bramble, Clover and Hollyhock in particular; they sound more like the names of mice from Brambley Hedge) and out of keeping the darker elements of the story. On the other hand, there are some genuinely original ideas (killer chandeliers are cool) and the story held my interest enough for me to keep reading and finish it. It’s not a world-changer, but makes for a pleasant, easy read.