Author: Heather Dixon
Publishing Information: March 29, 2011 by Greenwillow Books
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retellings
Series information: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 472 pages
Source: Borrowed from my local library
Recommended For: Readers looking for a magical retelling with bits of romance and a lovely focus on the importance of family.
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.
I was initially drawn to this book based on its cover, when I read the synopsis I was hooked, I love retellings and the story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses is one of my favorites! I also thought it would be interesting to read this book after reading Juliet Marillier’s version, Wildwood Dancing.
This story follows Azalea and her sisters, all named in alphabetical order after flowers. They live with their mother and father and their favorite thing in the world is to dance. Their father is a somewhat intimidating figure; they usually call him by “sir” or “the king” and are not close to him at all. They are, however, extremely close to their mother and savor her dance lessons above all else. Unfortunately, their mother dies giving birth to their youngest sister and the palace goes under a period of mourning, in which no dancing is allowed. Azalea finds out some information regarding the secret passages in their castle and they discover a magical wood beyond their castle that contains a dancing glen, taken care of by a man who only goes by the name Keeper. After time, Keeper’s real intentions come to light and Azalea must do all she can to protect her family.
I’m going to be honest, at first I couldn’t stand this book. It literally took me about 100 pages before I actually started to like the book and the characters. I couldn’t stand that Bramble was so outspoken, I was annoyed that every single conflict or happy moment related back to a dance (and I was a ballerina for 13 years!!) and I absolutely HATED the way in which Ivy just ate and ate and ate and all the characters were all “oh father let her be (obese)” it honestly turned me off to where I almost put the book away and marked it as a “did not finish.” However, I was intrigued enough and kept going and I am so happy that I did. After the mother dies, and the girls meet Keeper, the book starts to get good. Keeper was all kinds of awesome; he was handsome, mysterious, compassionate and evil. That’s right, EVIL! There comes a point in the story where Azalea finds out that there are people who’s souls have been captured, these “people” have had their mouths sewn shut so they are bound to live forever trapped in this in-between world with the inability to speak. How horrific?! I loved this. Then, the evil comes to the castle and there is this epic battle and all of these love pairings come about in a non-obvious way and it was so sweet and refreshing from the immediate I-have-to-have-you-now that comes in most YA romance novels. Also? I cried. This alone makes me like this book because it was so unexpected. The relationship between the girls and their father is even better than the romantic relationships in the book, which is rare and beautiful.
I didn’t love this book as much as I loved Wildwood Dancing, but I appreciated it in a completely different way. It was much more of a fairytale than the dark and layered tale of Marillier’s and I liked that. It’s highly recommended to those who like a good fairy tale with a less obvious, but still endearing, love story.