Dixon, Heather. Entwined. 480 p. Greenwillow. 2011. Hardcover $17.99. ISBN 9780062001030.
This book first caught my eye because of its gorgeous cover- specifically, the gorgeous DRESS on the cover! And when I realized the story was a retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, I was sold. I was sure it would be exactly my kind of book... and my instincts were right! Entwined is utterly beautiful.
The prose is lush, but not overwritten, and has a comfortable feeling about it- maybe because it's a fairy tale retelling and the reader feels familiar with the premise right from the start. Dixon's writing makes me just want to sink into the pages of this book and stay there for a good while.
In this retelling, the sisters don't sneak off to their magical dance each night for mere pleasure- they are in mourning for their beloved mother, and dancing has been forbidden for one very long year. The girls see dance as healing and life-affirming, and find themselves lost without it. Thus, their nightly escape is a way to help them cope with their loss. By turning this into a story about healing from grief, finding unexpected love, and protecting what is important, Dixon adds substance and depth to the original tale.
In writing the story of the twelve princesses, the author takes on quite an ambitious challenge in dealing with so many characters. Some of them are more fully realized than others, which makes the large cast seem more manageable. Also, unique speech patterns for each princess and a cleverly devised alphabetical flower naming pattern go a long way in helping the reader remember who's who. By the end of the novel, I felt so much love for this large family. The girls' tenuous reconnection with their estranged father might just be the most heartwarming depiction of familial love I've read in a long time. I just want to give them all a hug!
I also want to hug the love interests in this book... all three of them. There's a romance for the three eldest sisters in the family, and their love stories are distinct from one another, demonstrating different ways of falling in love. Each one is absolutely delightful-- cozy and sweet.
On the other hand, I most emphatically do not want to hug the villain of this book. Dixon does a masterful job of creating and subtly building tension with the character of Keeper, at first blurring the line between tantalizing bad boy and total creeper, and then taking him straight to eviltown once his motivations are fully revealed. Keeper is a truly memorable villain.
All in all, this book is fantastic- a must-read for fans of Shannon Hale and Robin McKinley.
Look for Entwined in bookstores on March 29. ARC for review was very kindly lent by my friend Michelle at Never Gonna Grow Up Reviews.