by Heather Dixon
In A Nutshell
It is a universal truth that girls just want to have fun. And if those girls happen to be princesses, then you can bet your tiara that they want to have fun by dancing.
But what if princesses are forbidden to dance? This is exactly what happens to Azalea and her eleven younger sisters in Entwined, thanks to some majorly rigid rules around mourning. This is a serious bummer to the girls… at least until they escape through a magic passage in their palace and discover an enchanted pavilion manned by the dashing but mysterious Keeper, who invites them to come dance every evening. So far, so good, right?
Yeah, not so much. There's more to Keeper and his magic than meets the eye. Plus Azalea, as the eldest princess, can only escape from so many of her duties—particularly when it comes to her family and her country. Caught up in a whirlwind of family strife, dangerous magic, and the threat of an arranged marriage, how will Azalea navigate the challenges ahead of her?
If this all sounds vaguely familiar to you, then it might be because it's based on the Grimms' fairy tale about twelve dancing princesses, called "The Worn Out Dancing Shoes". Unlike the Grimms' tale though, these princesses aren't sneaking away to dance with twelve princes in an underground forest—they're trying to escape their disciplinarian dad and the rest of the things that stink in their lives. Keep a sharp eye out for the invisibility cloak featured in the fairy tale though—it makes an appearance (or disappearance, as the case may be) here too.
You may be asking yourself: what makes Entwined notable, and not just another yawn-worthy fairy-tale retelling? First, it's been pretty popular since it hit bookshelves in 2011. Booklist and Publishers Weekly gave Entwined starred reviews, with Booklist proclaiming it an ALA Booklist Top 10 Romance for Youth. Not bad for Heather Dixon's debut novel, eh?
Second, Entwined shows us a likeable (if rather impulsive) protagonist—Azalea—who struggles with a lot of real-world problems even though she lives in a palace where magic tea seats run amok. Her problems are relatable, and her younger sisters are cute—and Entwined digs deep into the possibilities of the fairy tale it's based on, giving it depth and humanity, plus plenty of clever turns of phrase.
But don't take our word for it. Crack this book open and see if you can solve the riddle of the twelve dancing princesses before it's too late.
Why Should I Care?
You're probably no stranger to family drama. Everyone has that one relative who makes holiday gatherings awkward… or the family members who always find something to fight about (politics, religion, the proper way to prepare a Thanksgiving turkey)… or the relative who's stuck in the past and tells the same story over and over again to anyone standing nearby. We could go on, but you get the idea.
In Entwined, though, we see a family pulled apart by the strains of death and war, almost to the point of breaking. Azalea and her sisters resent their dad for being emotionally and geographically distant when they need him most, right after their mom has died, and his cold demeanor almost pushes them away entirely, when what they need as a family is to find a way to bond again. In fact, as the girls' entanglement with Keeper draws to a head, their family's fragile bond might be the only thing that can save them all.
Entwined shows us a dysfunctional family that somehow, against the odds, manages to heal. Families have always been torn apart by death and war and any number of other factors, and it's important to realize that many families can knit themselves back together—or form new cohesive family units—even after a tough time. Maybe some families need therapy to do it, while others just need time, and still others (like the royal family in Entwined) manage to unite against a homicidal undead king. Whatever works.
All we're saying is, families gotta stick together in the face of adversity. The characters in Entwined show us how to make that happen, through love and forgiveness—two things that just might come in handy the next time you're dragged to a family reunion.