Book Review: Entwined, by Heather Dixon



Entwined is a retelling of the fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” and I absolutely ADORED it. Seriously, this might have to go right up on the shelf with Ella Enchanted, Beauty, and East as one of my favoritest fairy tale retellings ever. I kind of want to read it all over again right now.

I don’t know how Ms. Dixon helps the reader keep track of TWELVE princesses throughout the course of the novel, but she does a marvelous job. Obviously we know the most about Azalea, the eldest and main character, but we get to know the rest pretty well too, from spunky and prickly Bramble, to shy beauty Clover and on down to little baby Lily. I LOVE the relationships between the sisters. They’re a close-knit group of largely mischievous girls who adore each other to no end.

The novel is set in a fantastical country existing in a time period very similar to Victorian England. There’s newspapers and guns and talk of railways, characters in Parliament and horses named Dickens and Thackarey. The royal family is actually rather poor, and the King is always up to his neck in Royal Business (or R.B., as it’s abbreviated).

The story opens with a Christmas Ball and the death of the girls’ mother. 😦 The whole house is thrown into Mourning, which means no visitors, no going outdoors, not wearing any color besides black, and absolutely no dancing for a whole year. The girls LOVE dancing, something they learned from their mother, and Azalea especially is quite accomplished. Dancing cheers them up and makes them think of their mother, but it’s forbidden. The girls discover a magic passageway in their bedroom that leads through a silver forest to a magic pavilion on a lake guarded by a man dressed all in black named Keeper. He invites them to come and dance there, and so they do, every night, and every night they wear out their dancing slippers (as the fairy tale goes).

I love the details in this novel. From the old magic tea set that pours tea of its own accord with its accompanying vicious sugar teeth, to the description of the girls’ mother smelling like baby ointment and white cake. The writing is beautiful and vivid.

And oh man, it gets CREEPY in the middle!! Yikes. For serious. Cree-ee-eeepy! But it in a good way. And there’s adorable romances, and Mr. Bradford (we never learn his first name!!) rocks, and Azalea is awesome—you really see her grow over the course of the novel.

But my absolute favorite part about the story is the characterization of the King and his relationship with his daughters. It is THE BEST.

And the ending was perfect.

As I said, I LOVE this book.

Puzzles

This rewrite feels like I’m trying to do a 2,000 piece puzzle, but I’ve only got 200 pieces and I lost the box so I can’t refer to the picture on the top and therefore have no clue what this thing is supposed to look like when it’s done.

Yeah. It’s kinda like that.

Where the novel currently is and where I want it to actually be are two separate universes at this moment. Here’s some of the changes I’m grappling with:

1. The Beginning. In the longest and most helpful rejection letter I’ve ever received, the question was posed: does this novel start in the right place? In this new draft I began the novel earlier in the timeline, and I feel like I might be trapped in the (new) first three chapters for all of eternity at this point.

2. Characterization. I’m basically trying to give my MC a spine. And some spunk. She’s getting a personality makeover, and she needs it!!

3. Relationships. I’m not too far into this aspect of the story yet, but there’s a massive balancing act to do here. My MC’s relationship with her mother is complicated and something I’m tweaking a little/trying to figure out in this new draft. There’s also a massive love square (that’s a love triangle with an extra side, haha) to navigate as the story progresses.

4. Plot. Although I’m not making a lot of earth-shattering plot alterations, I am changing it here and there, and I want to be consistent across the board and not change it so much that I lose the overall vision/feel of the original. I still want to be able to recognize this story!!

5. Length. I’m hoping to make this draft at least 10K shorter than the previous one. Yeah.

6. The Ending. I haven’t figured out if I’m going to change the original ending or not. I can’t decide.

So that’s that.