Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication date: March 2010
When their mother the queen dies, Azalea and her eleven younger sisters aren't sure what to do. Their father places the palace and all his daughters in deep mourning, cutting off all outdoor activity and fun activities, including dancing. But the princesses discover a secret place where their father can't find them to dance. What they little expect is to discover dark secrets about their mother and the Keeper of their secret place.
Things I Liked:
I just have to say - fantastic! The book was gorgeous and written so beautifully. I loved how Dixon described the motivations for why things happened, especially for why the sisters wanted to dance and how they got into the situation to begin with. I must say, Bramble and Lord Teddie stole the story for me. I adored them and I'm just hoping Dixon decides to write a story all for Bramble, because she was hands-down my favorite character. She was so fabulous that I thought Azalea paled a bit in her shadow. I loved the sweet romance that actually seemed to take the time to develop. And the story had just the right touch of creepy too! I loved having the disturbing and weird stuff that made the story balanced - not too sweet with something wicked hidden beneath the surface. I obviously really enjoyed this retelling - it's taken a place as one of my favorites. Some lovely bits (much of them from Bramble, of course):
Mrs. Graybe made cinnamon bread, a treat they could only afford on holidays, and Mr. Pudding walked about the palace, singing "Huzzah" in wheezing, out-of-tune tones. The Harold Herald, alive with news of the war, even printed an extra edition the next day, and among the news on the front page, the girls discovered that Minister Fairweller had been wounded. Clover, so tenderhearted, cried.
"Oh, he's probably all right," said Bramble. "It would take a lot to kill him. Like garlic and a stake through the heart." p 126-127
"Down with tyranny!" Bramble cried. "Aristocracy! Autocracy! Monocracy! Other ocracy things! You are outnumbered, sir! Surrender!" p 148
The dancers were masked with ornate, gilded animal heads. A golden-furred jackal, and his lady, with feathers and a gold beak. Masks with eyeholes rimmed in gems and embroidery clung to the dancers' faces. This was a masked ball, something Azalea had only heard of. In her imagination they had been more innocent; gentlemen dressed as hussars and ladies with white, glittery masks attached to a stick. Not this chaotic meshing of gilded beasts and opulent monsters. p 258
"Sir!" whined Lord Teddie. "You forgot my birthday, too!"Things I Didn't Like:
Bramble gave a surprised laugh, then slapped her hand over her mouth, as though shocked at letting it out. The tension broke. The girls laughed sheepishly, and Lord Teddie beamed. He probably did not have many ladies think him funny. In fact, he probably got slapped by a lot of them. p 297
It did start out a bit slow. The book is long and a lot of it is build up to the story, but for those who love a well-developed and complex fairy-tale retelling, this is perfect. I adored it, honestly. I think a story with twelve separate sisters is like a writers' nightmare, because it's impossible to have them all well-developed. But, I loved them, when I could remember who was who. The oldest three are the most important and they certainly were better developed than the others.
Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
just a touch creepy, not really violent
Overall rating: *****
Do you have a favorite retelling of all time?
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