Entwined by Heather Dixon
Just when Azalea should feel that everything is before her — beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing — it's taken away. All of it. And Azalea is trapped. The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. So he extends an invitation.
Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest, but there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.
In her reimagining of the Grimm Brothers' The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Dixon introduces a world of magic and romance haunted by evil and loss. The setting, a decrepit old castle with magic - both good and bad - lingering about, is vividly imagined, as is the silver garden tucked away beneath the castle. As the girls dance each night, Keeper sets a centuries-old plan in motion. As a villain, he was delightfully creepy, and I would have liked to see more of him. A good portion of the book occurs away from Keeper, in the girls' daily lives, where they are dealing with their mother's death and struggling to relate to their father. The added subplot of the relationship between the King and his daughters was interesting and sweet, and I was glad it was such a big part of the plot.
While protecting her sisters from Keeper and mending her bond with her father, Azalea is also looking for a husband and future king. The romance of the book was very well done. It was about as far from instalove as possible, and it was refreshing to see an author take so much time to develop a relationship. Although Azalea has many suitors, the romance also stays triangle-free and a side note to the main plot.
The slow build of the story allowed for more suspense and the amount of subplot the book had, but it's also the reason I didn't rate Entwined higher. The plot dragged just a little too much in some places, while in others it rushed on. If it weren't for Dixon's array of characters, I might have been bored to tears. Luckily, the twelve princesses and various other characters were lively enough to keep me interested. Each of them was fully formed and entertaining. Azalea was complex but relatable, and I liked her a lot as a heroine.
Entwine is a masterfully developed story, and if you're willing to take your time with it, is a rewarding read. Fairy-tale lovers will delight in Dixon's beautifully crafted prose.
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