Monday, March 30, 2009

Princess of the Midnight Ball

By Jessica Day George.

This is a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses: their dancing slippers are in shreds every morning despite being replaced every day, and eventually the king decides to offer a reward to whoever can discover the cause. Wikipedia has more.

What I liked: I'm not sure. I think this novel hit the sweet spot with its mixture of charm and humor, although it may have fallen short on suspense. Despite being familiar with the general plot (I've read Robin McKinley's short story from The Door in the Hedge, Wildwood Dancing, and most recently The Phoenix Dance), this book didn't disappoint. I also liked the atmosphere and (pseudo-) historical detail: the book takes place in an almost-Europe, complete with a Roman church.

What I didn't like: Despite the "distinguishing" characteristics, only about half the princesses stood out as individuals. (The author stated in an interview that she came up with one distinguishing characteristic for each in order to set them apart. Hyacinth, for example, is religious.) Also, although the church wasn't portrayed in an entirely negative light, I had to wonder: the characters openly believe in God, but he seems to have no bearing on the mess of curses and spells they find themselves in. Galen relies on his own wits and the advice of his friends, and the princesses themselves are disappointingly passive (although witty), perhaps due to the spell.

Overall? I recommend this as a strong retelling, fleshed out with a lot of detail and the charm that made me like (I want to say love, but I haven't reread it yet) Dragon Slippers.

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