Princess of the Midnight Ball – Jessica Day George
Returning from the war that has swallowed most of his young life, Galen wants nothing more than a quiet life as a civilian and reunion with what family he has left. When he finds work in the palace gardens, however, he meets with Rose, eldest of the king’s twelve daughters, and learns that the end of the war does not mean peace for everyone. For Rose and her sisters have a terrible secret. Years ago, their mother made a foolish bargain, and now her daughters pay the price. While the mystery of their tattered dancing shoes spreads rumour and scandal across the kingdom, there is worse yet to come. One night, the princesses know, they may never return from the Midnight Ball…
This is the second novelisation of the Grimm fairy tale ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’ that I have read so far this year, the first being Heather Dixon’s Entwined. For reasons unknown to me, both authors named all their princesses after flowers, and set their different stories in vaguely 19th century Germanic nations. Day George’s retelling is definitely my preference of the two, however. She handles the difficulty of twelve sisters crammed into one narrative with skill, managing to give each girl a distinctive personality while keeping her main focus firmly on Rose. There is also the irresistable sweetness of Galen, an very likeable hero who is equally proficient with a bayonet and a pair of knitting needles. Princess of the Midnight Ball has a creepy undertone, exploring the consequences of being made to dance every night, and could have been made much darker. Staying largely faithful to an original fairy tale while making it into an interesting new story is no easy task, but Day George does it well. Although I admit I would have liked it just for the knitting.