Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Review: Entwined by Heather Dixon

Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.
The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And 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.
There have been a lot of retellings of well-known fairy tales over the last few years, but one of my childhood favourites has always been the twelve dancing princesses. I had a picture book as a child that showed the tale in such beautiful detail that it’s one that has stayed with me throughout the years.
However, ‘Entwined’ is certainly one of the best retellings of the tale that I’ve come across. Dixon takes the original fairy tales and puts an entirely fresh spin on it. Instead of the mother of the princesses being dead, we see her prior to her death and she is a constant presence throughout the book, both in the girls memories and thoughts but also in the very act of mourning and the magic of the castle.
The Princesses are left with the King, a parent who at first doesn’t seem to care about the girls now their mother has gone, and leaves them alone to go to war for the better part of the years mourning.
The King was a brilliantly well played character. At first he comes across as your stereotypical non-caring parent who has been left with children he doesn’t really want. However, Dixon takes that image and turns it on his head – he does care, he tries, he fails, he gets grumpy, and he tries again. He was one of my favourite characters because he started out not particularly nice, and grew and developed and came to appreciate all he still had, not all that he had lost.
And the dancing, Dixon describes it beautifully, you can see the movements in your head. The dancing springs out of a need to keep grief at bay, to keep the memory of their mother close and to hold the girls together as a family unit. There is no curse already in place at the start of the book, the magic ballroom is a place discovered to help them try to recover some sense of normalcy in a world that has been very much turned upside down.
Whilst the eldest Princess, Azalea is the main focus of the story, the rest of the sisters all get their own threads, personalities and traits. The hard part of this tale is usually trying to create a family of twelve princesses without leaving any as one dimensional flat cut outs. But Dixon manages to create a family unit that is so strong and so lifelike that that alone is a huge achievement – add to that the rest of the novel and this is the best fairy tale retellings I’ve read.
The magic involved is both beautiful and thrilling and terrifyingly horrible. The novel had some of the most frightening moments I’ve read in a while, and yet it could also be amusing and gorgeous as well. The final battle was incredibly well done, and I couldn’t have put the book down if I’d wanted to, it drew me in and gripped me entirely.
The writing is exquisite – it sweeps you up and carries you along in this world of dances, grief and trying to keep a family unit together. Dixon has a beautiful writing style and knows when to keep the words sweet and delicate, when to turn terrifying, and when to insert her very brilliant humour into the mix.
“Down with tyranny!' Bramble cried. 'Aristocracy! Autocracy! Monocracy! Other ocracy things! You are outnumbered, sir! Surrender!” 
I did have one tiny weeny grump. Why do characters insist on deciding they are in love. Sure ok after pages and pages of becoming friends and getting to know each other this is less frustrating because it is believable. However, when they haven’t had many scenes together or much time to get to know each other, to suddenly have this funny feeling and go ‘oh hey, I think I’m in love!’ really frustrates me. For that matter why do they have to have that ‘decision’ at all? Why can’t it just be left ambiguous and left to the reader to interpret? Take ‘The Scorpio Races’ – there is no wild declaration, no moment of hey I think I might love him. Just two people getting to know each other, who have an intense connection and take it further – there is no label. Anyway, this book just happened to do this and it peeved me, but this mini rant is aimed at a lot more books than just this one – it just happened to emerge here. Rant over.
 “He's around the twist,' said Azalea. 'Breaking all the windows? He's mad.' 
'Ah, no,' said the King. 'It's only madness if you actually do it. If you 
want to break all the windows in the house and drown yourself in a bucket but don't actually do it, well, that's love.” 
So if you like fairy tales, read this book. If you love dancing, read this book. If you love tales of princesses and dashing men and terrible magic, read this book. Hell, just read this book anyway, it’s fabulous in all the right ways and I am so glad I picked it up. So please Heather Dixon, write some more, this book was awesome and I would quite happily buy anything and everything you ever write. But in the mean time, I recommend checking out Heather’s blog, which had me crying with laughter at more than a few moments.

1 comment:

  1. Best story ive heard in a long time. Extreamly captivating. This book will keep you on the ege of your seat to the very end. I reccomend this book to anyone who loves a good romance,secrets,magic,and mystery. Ive gevin this book five stars for the great beginning middle and a fabulose ending that will leave you smileing to the very last page.