A retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, this charming novel for early teens is also good for a grownup reader. Unlike the original fairy tale, in this story, the princesses don’t want to dance at the Midnight Ball every night but they have no choice: they are under a curse by an evil sorcerer. Moreover, the curse makes it impossible for them to tell anyone or to ask for help.
The heroes of this story, the eldest princess, eighteen-year-old Rose, and a former soldier, nineteen-year-old Galen, fall in love, of course, while Galen tries to figure out Rose’s secret and how to help her and her sisters. The plot follows the source pretty closely, but as always with fairy tales, the characters are much better developed.
Rose, as the oldest, feels responsible for her younger sisters. She is a delightful girl, beautiful inside and out. She would do anything to break the spell hanging over her sisters’ heads, but there is nothing she can do until Galen comes along.
A son of a soldier, Galen grew up with the army. He fought in battles since he was fourteen. At nineteen, he is a veteran. Fortunately, the long war is finally over, and he finds a job as a gardener in the king’s gardens. He is a practical guy, with no illusions but lots of compassion. He is brave. He sees that the princesses suffer and he longs to help.
It was a light, uncomplicated book. A little magic, a little teenage affection, and everything clean and sparkling, with no resemblance to anything even remotely related to real life. Even the writer’s attempts to indulge in political machinations are simplified, while she builds her tension and ups the stakes for the protagonists.
The only complaint I have is that the author named all twelve princesses, all by different flower names, and I couldn’t distinguish between them, neither names nor ages, no matter how much I tried. Otherwise, it was a book to rest your soul after all the battles and flawed heroes of modern adult fantasy.
I must be sliding back into childhood: I’m developing a taste for children’s fantasy, and Ms. George is helping me. I already read a couple of her other books and I’m going to read more. They make me happy.