Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: Entwined - Heather Dixon

Synopsis: 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 have read several versions of the fairy-tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and while Princess of the Midnight Ball (Jessica Day George) is still my favorite, none of them have chilled me as much as Entwined did.

Heather Dixon did a remarkable job "vamping" this classic fairy-tale, fleshing its original holes out and adding much more danger and drama to the story. All of the characters are unique and wonderful - especially Lord Bradford, who is simply wonderful right off, and Lord Teddie is absolutely hilarious. Every single sister, right down to the littlest, who is just a baby, has their own very distinguishable personality, making it easy to remember who is who, and their characteristics just shine through all the more as the story progresses. Azalea is a wonderfully strong heroine who certainly struggles with many things, but doesn't develop an annoying, haughty attitude because of it. The relationship between the girls and their father offers new insight into why the twelve princesses dance the nights away and never breathe a word about it (something I always wondered myself when I read the fairy-tale, then just concluded that they were spoilt little children. I was never satisfied with this conclusion).

And the Keeper is very intriguing and also very alarming. It is always my opinion that magic lessens the scariness of a villain because they don't have to rely on their own wit and cunning nearly as much (a villain who has it always more threatening, because 1)they have to be very intelligent, and 2)you realize that such people are not just confined to the pages of a book). However, the Author gave Keeper a stupendously creepy personality, and so his magical abilities neither lessen his evilness nor adds to it; the Keeper doesn't need the magic, because he has the intelligence and cruelty all on his own. He is attractive, which I usually consider a plus, because ugly villains are just too cliche, and he is extremely gentlemanly, never losing his cool, and yet his cruelty is easy to trigger. I would never wish to meet him.

The Author's choice to pattern her world after the early Victorian era adds to the effectiveness of the story, as does setting most of it in winter. For some reason, The Twelve Dancing Princesses is one of those fairy-tales that just slips into the fashions and inventions and decor and music of the Victorian era, and Heather Dixon brings it to absolute life with her descriptions and Victorian humor, which combines easily with the dark, creeping drama.

Many books have been described as breathtaking. I've very rarely said such a thing about a story, but such a description fits Entwined perfectly. From page one, I was immediately swept away, completely immersed, picturing everything very vividly. The sweet and silent romance, tear-jerking tragedies, ironic humor, beautiful landscapes, mysterious rooms, and chilling danger all weave a dense web of intensity that gave me the full impression of being breathless. The story becomes progressively darker as the Reader learns more about the Keeper, but it never reached a point where I felt uncomfortable in a way that demonic imagery does. I felt uncomfortable in the way that I did when I read The Red Shoes - pleasantly horrified. I am glad that it was not dark when I read the last few chapters of Entwined, though.

Princess of the Midnight Ball will always remain my absolute favorite re-telling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses - sorry, but it is really hard to beat Galen. But Entwined has to be my second-favorite. It was nice to read the story from the perspective of the princesses for once, rather than the rescuer, and any story that leaves me feeling like I'm waking up from a dream after I've finished it is going to be a favorite. I highly recommend this as a must-read.

Overall Rating: 

Read Hazel West's review here!

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