Sunday, 30 January 2011

Review: Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

What young girl wouldn't love to dance away her nights in this splendid castle, in the arms of a handsome prince?
As crown princess, Rose is never without a dance partner. She and her eleven sisters are treated to beautiful gowns, slippers and dances at party after party in their father’s palace. But their evenings do not end when their guests return home. Instead, Rose and her sisters must travel deep into the earth to the wicked King Under Stone’s palace. There, the girls are cursed to dance all night long each night, even when they grow exhausted or ill.
Many princes have tried and failed to break the spell. But then Rose meets Galen, a young soldier-turned-gardener with an eye for adventure. Together they begin to unravel the mystery. To banish the curse, they need an invisibility cloak, enchanted silver knitting needles, and of course, true love.

I love fairy tales – they make me feel all warm and mushy inside. It’s like putting on a favourite pair of pyjamas when you’re ill and being told a story again. I used to have a picture book telling the story of the twelve dancing princesses that my sister has long since stolen away, and it was always one of my favourite tales.

This retelling stays true to the original, but makes something more of the story. There’s more danger, humour and romance, and the stakes are a lot higher than I remember them being – but all that makes it into an even better story. 

It’s incredibly simple, so don’t expect anything too thrilling or deep, but it has the same lyrical quality you can find in other fairy tale retellings, like Robin McKinley’s ‘Beauty’ and it captivates you quickly, providing a lovely escape for a few hours.

Instead of Galen simply finding out the princesses secret and rescuing them, they are bound by a curse, unable to speak of it, and the kingdom starts to fall into chaos the longer the mystery goes unsolved. In fact by the end, it’s bordering the Salem Witch trials, and I was surprised how tense it gets! I was expecting a children’s story!

With so many princesses it’s hard to really get to know them properly, and that’s my only complaint, that I wish I could have found out a bit more about them; that they could have been more than just names and a couple of traits that I occasionally got confused. However, the principle characters are well written and very likeable, and there’s enough to them that you genuinely invest in them and want to see what happens.

As I said, the stakes are raised, and whilst you know that everything is going to end up happily ever after (it is a fairy tale after all) it genuinely gets a little bit terrifying for a while. I’d recommend this as a book to fill in and provide a bit of escapism. Anyone who’s familiar with the tale will enjoy this novel and the expansion it provides on the original.

The sort of sequel ‘Princess of Glass’ is already available and follows one of the princesses, Poppy, as she goes off to find her own fairy tale – a retelling of Cinderella. Definitely one to check out.

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