My rating: (5 / 5)
If books were a colour, this book would be pink. Not baby pink, and certainly not neon, but that perfect rosy shade that totally flatters your complextion when you wear it and actually looks sophisticated.
I’ll admit to something here – I chose this book based on the cover. Sometimes a cover totally, completely enraptures me and this one did so brilliantly. I didn’t care what it was about and didn’t read the blurb, I just wanted to be the princess on the cover. Yes, I’m actually a grown-up woman, I swear! But really – princess!
Okay, down to business. This book is a retelling of the classic fairy tale of the twelve dancing princesses. If you know that fairy tale, you sort of know the meat of this story, but I found this re-telling to be brilliant.
Azalea is the eldest of 11 girls, in a cash poor royal family somewhere between mideval battles and railroads (I’m guessing it’s around the Edwardian period in history, based on clues like pistols and newspapers and the like.) Her pregnant mother dies giving birth on Christmas, and her father, the king, declares a year of mourning – black clothing, no going outdoors except on royal business, no playing, no music, and certainly no dancing.
Azalea’s mother loved dancing, and so do all the girls. In fact, she taught them dancing regularly, and dancing seems to be one way they can remember her, now that their father has locked away everything their mother ever touched, away from the sight of the girls. They try sneaking to the ballroom in the dead of night, but after being caught, they are locked out. If only they could find a secret place to dance and remember their mum… and then Azalea is told of secret passages that pepper the magical castle, and her curiosity is piqued.
This is a fun story. It has plenty of suspense and some interesting romances, with everything very G rated (this would be a great read-aloud book for young families). It manages to have a very classic fairy tale feel without going overly Disney on the story – there are real threats, and even some blood. Still, the violence isn’t gory, and it doesn’t take over the story.
Highly recommended for the princesses (and princes!) at heart.