Azalea's life is just beginning, when suddenly it's brought to a screeching halt. In the aftermath, Azalea and her sisters must retreat into mourning: no daylight, no visitors, and worst of all -- no dancing. But dancing is the only thing that makes them feel alive, and so each night they slip away to the secret sanctuary hidden behind the palace walls, and they dance. The Keeper is glad to share his forest with the beautiful, dancing girls -- but he has a secret, one the princesses may not discover until far, far too late.
Entwined's fairy tale tone immediately pulls the reader into an enchanted world and brilliantly imaginative story. The world-building in this novel is phenomenal, creating original kingdoms and secret forests of silver and starlight. Heather Dixon weaves the formalities of yore -- dancing and curtsies and solemn vows -- into her magical world with ease, adding a unique flavor to the tale. The high fantasy feel was unexpected but welcome, a wonderful escape from reality.
The highlight of the novel is unquestionably the twelve princesses. Their relationship is heart-warming and adorable, reminding me of puppies playfully tumbling over one another. Their bond is unbreakable, and their sisterly love is palpable. The eldest sisters radiate life -- especially Azalea, the heroine. Though she is literally a fairy tale princess, she feels like a real girl with real problems, and she faces them head-on.
The driving force of the story is the girls' troubled relationship with their father, the King. The family has their difficulties -- and big ones, at that -- but they evolve believably as a unit. It is refreshing to see a parent-child relationship develop and grow, rather than stagnate or be pushed aside. Though many YA novels feature absent (literally or emotionally) parents, the King was a significant presence and complex character, with a charm and charisma all his own.
Speaking of charm and charisma -- one cannot forget Lord Bradford. Bradford is quite possibly the most huggable hero ever written. The poor fellow is always slightly rumpled -- hair mussed, clothes askew. He fits perfectly in this quaint fairy tale fantasy. The romance that develops between him and the Princess Royale is endearing -- worthy of a "happily ever after." There's no love-at-first-sight, and the way Dixon sets up their relationship is cleverly plotted to avoid some dangerous waters that could undermine their love.
This novel is cute and quirky, full of the absurd yet spirited situations one might expect in a fairy tale. A few plot elements were predictable, but it in no way lessened the joy of reading this novel. Entwined will sweep readers off their feet, straight into a world of fairy princesses and haunted castles, where everything may not be quite what it seems.
Disclosure: I received an advance review copy of this novel from the publisher. This did not influence my review in any way.