Entwined by Heather DixonPublished on March 29, 2011 by Greenwillow Books
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
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.
Entwined is a take on the classic tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Azalea, the eldest princess, narrates the story as the queen passes and she and her sisters are left to the care of their father. The king comes off as a cold and couldn’t care less for the girls while he grieves for his wife then heads off to war. All the princesses have left is dancing and even that is taken as the mourning traditions forbid it. Naturally, this doesn’t stop the princesses, who find a hidden forest “beneath” their room where Keeper resides with his magical pavilion and endless dances. Old magic from well before the king’s time. But Keeper isn’t all he claims to be, as these stories go, and the girls realize how trapped they really are. Altogether, this story takes The Twelve Dancing Princesses for a turn to the worst.
To put it bluntly, I wanted to shoot Azalea. Talk about flat and passive. She is literally the perfect princess and damsel in distress. Instead of the cliche rebel princess, Dixon takes it completely opposite and gives us a girl who couldn’t think an original thought even if her life depended on it (which it did at a few points). I found it tiresome to read through her view of the limited world she lived in. And the attempt at romance for her and Lord Bradford couldn’t have been more boring. As for her eleven sisters, they weren’t much better in regards to personality. Their only cares were for dancing, with perhaps the gentlemen visitors and their dreary wardrobe to come in a close second. I had hopes for the second eldest, Bramble, who offered a glimpse at individuality, but those moments were seldom. Her gentleman caller, Lord Teddie, was probably one of the most interesting characters in the story. He was quirky and not afraid to go against society rules and etiquette. I cheered for him by the end. Finally, the third princess (as the rest were mentioned but not really focused on), Clover, had a lot of issues. Beautiful, innocent, kind, and loved, Clover’s about as sheltered as it gets–yet she’s having an affair with a man at least ten years older than her (if not more) who wants her to run away with him. She’s in her early teens. Creepy much? All three princesses need to get their heads examined because I think they’re missing a few pieces.
This novel had a lot of potential. The title is in regards to a dance performed between a man and woman with a sash, a sort of capture-and-escape. It comes up a few times and is an interesting idea, if a small part of the story. I feel like that describes this book’s potential. Small bits and pieces gleamed with promise but were overshadowed by a shallow plot, horribly unmemorable characters, and a lack of story telling. Entwined lacks the depth I look for in a novel and the originality I expect from fairy tale retellings. I wanted to read this book based on the cover and overall concept, but I’m glad I borrowed it from the library instead of outright buying it. While reading, I noticed I began to skim the pages from a loss of interest (I even fell asleep reading at one point, which I rarely do). Dixon’s writing isn’t terrible but her storytelling leaves much to be desired.
I don’t think I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone. It’s fine if you’re looking for a light and quick read, I suppose, but that’s as far as I’d take it. I only finished it out of a sense of duty to see it through to the end, hoping it’d improve. It didn’t. If I recommended it to anyone, it would be middle-grade/tween readers and perhaps fans of those genres. The writing is simple enough and the content contains nothing too objectionable. Somehow I got through this book but I definitely won’t be coming back to it.