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by Dixon, Heather

Book list *Starred Review* In the half-magical world of Eathesbury, Azalea is the oldest of 12 daughters and heir to her father's throne. When the sisters' mother dies after a long illness, the siblings find a hidden passageway to an enchanted pavilion under the castle where they can dance all night, secretly breaking the rules of mourning. The mysterious and alluring Keeper makes this possible, but he also seems to have less-than-honorable plans for the girls, especially Azalea. The tale's atmosphere becomes increasingly dark and brooding as the truth from ages past comes out, and Azalea realizes just what evil they are pitted against. With several unexpected twists, the story, based on the original Grimms' tale The Worn-Out Dancing Shoes, plunges toward a harrowing conclusion. This first novel is richly imagined with a gothic feel, and Dixon's descriptions of the many dances are thrilling. Although the general story line will be familiar to readers of Jessica Day George's Princess of the Midnight Ball (2009), this romantic fantasy is darker in tone, and the villain resembles the faeries in Nancy Werlin's Impossible (2008) and O. R. Melling's The Hunter's Moon (2005). The story gracefully explores significant themes of grief and loss, mercy and love. Full of mystery, lush settings, and fully orbed characters, Dixon's debut is both suspenseful and rewarding.--Moore, Melissa Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Readers who enjoy stories of royalty, romance, and magic will delight in Dixon's first novel. Part confection, part acute observation, the story of Azalea and her sisters is a reimagining of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" by an author who knows both the protocols and the pleasures of dance. The girls lose that when their mother dies in childbirth, and the castle is plunged into deepest mourning. Their father, whom they call "the King," banishes the girls from his sight and shortly thereafter goes off to war without saying good-bye. Grieving, angry, and bored, Azalea discovers a hidden passage out of the princesses' room, and the magical pavilion it leads to, guarded by the enigmatic spirit Keeper, is the perfect place to dance again. Or is it? Azalea, keenly aware of her duties as the Princess Royale, cannot trust a dream-come-true scenario nor can she forget the warm brown eyes of Mr. Bradford, met briefly and now warring beside the King. The language is simple, rendering Dixon's insights with a light touch without simplifying the problems Azalea faces or the nuances of the understanding she develops. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Gr 7-10-This novelized reimagining of the Grimms' "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" is a successful and appealing blend of fantasy, romance, mystery, and creepiness. After her mother's death and the banning of all diversions by her grieving and distant father, the eldest of the 12 sisters, Princess Azalea, finds a magical entrance to a fantasy world of a dancing pavilion to which the sisters can escape each night. Azalea slowly begins to understand that the handsome and mysterious Pavilion Keeper has a sinister plan that will ensnare her, but it is only toward the climax that its terrible meaning becomes clear. Her battle with the Keeper will require all of her courage, ingenuity, and ultimately something magical beyond herself. While the plot has a fairy-tale feel, the relationships among the sisters have more of a contemporary domestic sensibility. There are hints of something deeper, too, with 16-year-old Azalea trying to fill the shoes of her mother even while she grieves for her, and struggling with the weight of that responsibility. Woven around the fantasy is a gentle romance theme accompanied by touches of humor, with the king attempting to marry off his daughters and the princesses insisting on their autonomy. Dixon successfully distinguishes the younger girls by emphasizing only one or two traits for each. The three eldest, Azalea, Bramble, and Clover, are more fully drawn. The suitors are by turns appealing and funny, but it is the Keeper who stays with readers. Fans of Gail Carson Levine's Fairest (HarperCollins, 2006) or Julie Kagawa's "Iron Fey" series (Harlequin Teen) will cheer on Azalea and her sisters in their quest for family and happiness.-Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.