I recently finished reading Entwined, by Heather Dixon, and although it is targeted at a teenaged audience, I enjoyed it. This was a nice read after the weight of The Human Stain.
This review will contain some spoilers, FYI.
Entwined offers an interesting spin on the fairy tale of the twelve dancing princesses and presents a story full of romance, dancing, and magic. It opens right before Azaela’s coming-of-age ball, which she is beyond excited for. The eldest of 11 (soon to be 12) girls, Azaela loves to dance, a skill shared with all her sisters and encouraged by her mother. She is summoned to her mother’s room before the ball. Azaela’s mother is pregnant and sick, and passes her a silver handerchief and makes her promise to take care of her sisters. Confused, Azaela’s promises, and returns to the ball. She dances the night away but before the final dance, the Entwine, the ball is cut short and Azaela learns that her mother has died after giving birth to the last sister.
The palace falls into mourning, strictly watched over by the King, Azaela’s father. Dancing is forbidden, but when the King leaves for war, the girls dare to dance. Azaela discovers a secret passageway in the girls’ room that opens when something silver is rubbed on it. Incidentally, silver is not only the royal color, but a magical color. Although Azaela doesn’t know it yet, when she promised her mother to take care of the sisters after recieving the handerchief, she Swore on Silver, which is a powerful kind of magic.
At the end of the secret passage, the girls discover a pavillion where they return every night to dance. The pavillion is watched over by Keeper, a dark mysterious man that says he is trapped under the castle. The girls mend their slippers every morning, unable to stay away from dancing even one night. Things become twisted with Keeper and Azaela, and Keeper tricks Azaela into agreeing to help set him free – which can only be done when every magical object in the castle is destroyed.
Meanwhile, the King returns and decides that it is about time Azaela found a husband. He invites suitor after suitor under the premise of a riddle (here is the main connection to the fairy tale). Lord Bradford, Azaela’s favorite, shows up whenever the King and Azaela have their differences (which is a lot) and talks her through her problems. Later though, Azaela learns that Lord Bradford believes she is actually her younger sister, Bramble. She is angry, and shouts to him as she is leaving one of their conversations that she is in fact not Bramble and is Azaela (this scene was pretty funny, written with all the angst and attitude of a wronged teenage girl).
The girls’ relationship with the King improves and things seem to be going well, until Keeper raises the stake on Azaela’s bargain for his freedom. She scrambles to find and destroy magical objects, not knowing that Keeper is actually the High King: the first magician-king who became evil and captured people’s souls. When the sisters are kidnapped, Azaela is on her own to save them…or so she thinks. Lord Bradford has followed her under an invisible cloak, and is able to bring the King to help her stop Keeper. A battle ensues, and Keeper shoots the King, apparently lifting his last constraint. However, Keeper turns into dust, and the girls are able to save the King with a deep magic they didn’t know they possessed.
In the end, Lord Bradford and Azaela become engaged (Bramble and Clover, the second and third youngest, all find love as well) and the sisters finally have a loving relationship with the King, their Papa. This fairy tale is intriguing and written with a strong command of language and imagery. It’s a quick, enjoyable read, sure to interest anyone who loves a touch of the magical.