From: the public library
Heard about from: The Written World
For the challenge: What’s in a Name
In a nutshell:
This young adult novel is a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale. Actually, my copy of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales calls it “The Shoes That Were Danced To Pieces.”
Soon after I started reading this book, I stopped a moment and read “The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces.” In the fairy tale, the princesses wear out their shoes every night and it’s a mystery how they do this. So, the king issues an open call for princes to figure it out in three days, the reward being the throne by marriage to the princess. If they don’t, they are killed by the king. The princesses in the fairy tale appear to like dancing at this mysterious ball, and don’t want their fun being spoiled by any of the princes. A soldier eventually succeeds in solving the mystery and marries the eldest princess.
In Jessica Day George’s book, the princesses are cursed by a pact their mother made, to dance every evening at the ball of an underworld king. Due to the underworld magic, they are unable to speak of their curse to anyone. The king does seek the help of other princes, but they are killed by the underworld king’s magic, not by the king himself. So the book’s retelling of the story makes a whole lot more people sympathetic.
Jessica Day George also supplies the story with some light historical context. The kingdom of the princesses is Westfalin (similar to the historical region of Westphalia in Germany) and terms of address include “Herr” and “Frau”. The Catholic Church plays a role too, as the witchcraft comes to the attention of an archbishop.
I liked Jessica Day George’s descriptions of the sisters, such as how they describe the last three sisters “the younger set.” Some of the twelve were little more than a type: the religious one, the one who plays piano, the vain one. But I particularly liked Poppy, the rebel, who retains a sense of humor throughout the princesses’ ordeal. Rose is the sister that is the main character, but Poppy was actually more interesting and I wish she had a bigger part, or even got her own book.
The hero, Galen, distinguishes himself as a man who knits, because as a soldier, you had to learn to make your own socks and clothing. This skill plays an integral part in the story, fabric being a thing that can contain magical properties.
Princess of the Midnight Ball was a quick pleasant read overall, which was just the type of book I wanted after I had finished Touchstone, a longer, more densely plotted book (that I will review soon.)