Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Source: Provided by the publisher for an honest review (thanks HarperCollins)
Cover: This cover is exquisite. Her long flowing white gown and the frantic running through the garden. The castle in the background, powder blue against the yellow sky. The way the silver leaves and flower are entwined around the title. I love it!
First Sentence: "An hour before Azalea's first ball began, she paced the ballroom floor, tracing her toes in a waltz."
Mini-Review: Entwined is an enchanting fairytale full of the best kind of magic. It will leave you dizzy!
Azalea and her younger sisters dance in the mysterious silver forest every night, escaping from the sadness of the palace and their father's grief. What they don't understand--although as time passes they begin to get an inkling of the danger they are in-- is that the mysterious and dashing Keeper is tightening his snare with deadly purpose. Lush, romantic, and compelling, this debut novel by Heather Dixon will thrill fans of Shannon Hale, Robin McKinley, and Edith Pattou.
Reading Entwined was like following a favorite dance complete with graceful spins in the plot, characters leading like a perfect partner, music to set the atmosphere and a touch of magic to quicken the pace. It truly was like a re-worked fairytale and a delight to read. Filled with magical objects, a fun array of words and phrases, and a whole bunch of dancing, it was enjoyable ride from the first step to the final bow.
Azalea was a fun young princess who you couldn't help but root for. Though a bit naive, she was brave when the time came and she would do anything for her family. After dealing with the death of their mother, Azalea becomes even more in charge of the rest of her brood-- that is eleven other sisters-- without a single compliant. I loved that she was willing to fight for them, even when it meant facing the king, her cold and aloof father. Not being terribly graceful myself, I thought it interesting to follow a character who puts merit in grace and is the best dancer of her sisters. I loved that Azalea has a passion for dancing and it was reflected in the wording of the story and how she sees the world. I also thought Azalea's journey from the naive princess who is willing to put trust into everyone to strong young woman who puts trust in herself was an awesome one to take.
It was also really interesting that the author chose to make the girls poor even though they were the princesses. All of a sudden, royalty isn't about who had the most money but who had the most where it counted inside. The king was a good one, from a strong bloodline and as such ruled through a level head and not money and power. I also liked that instead of dealing with the usual dilemma of having to marry someone she didn't love because he was promised to be the next king, Azalea had some choice in her own destiny. There were different problems, not relying on the cliched arranged marriage plot.
The cast of sisters and the gentlemen that courted them were wonderful. I liked that even though there were a lot of sisters, by the end I could read a name and associate a personality without getting confused. For me, that shows a mastery at characterization from the author's standpoint which is especially impressive since this is a third person novel. Mr. Keeper was equally parts alluring with his silky smooth voice and black ensemble but also incredibly creepy at the right times.
I really enjoyed that this novel felt like one long fairytale. The simple way the author explained things, the short sentences for dialog, all lended themselves to make this feel like a once upon a time storybook and I adored this. Dixon was especially good a mixing in sweet elements like the ribbons and lace on the girls' dresses and following it with a creepy little story about how the past king used to drink the blood of young girls. The short creepy little stories really helped to balance out the beautiful scenes and let reader know that while there is magic, something isn't right just underneath the surface.
My only complaint is that the novel felt a bit long in the middle. I think had it been a little tighter, the pace wouldn't have been affected so much and the storybook feeling would have been more solidified.
Entwined is worth a look. It's different from the other fantasies as out there in that it has a simple elegance. Dixon truly writes like a ballroom dancer moves--they make it look easy and so does Dixon. Filled with magic, a bit of silver, and a cast of characters to cheer for, Entwined is a delight to read. I'd say you should definitely accept it's invitation to dance.