Monday, August 29, 2011

Book Review: Entwined by Heather Dixon

Entwined by Heather Dixon
Release Date: March 29, 2011
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Pages: 480
Received: Own
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.

The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.

But there is a cost.
The Keeper likes to keep things.

Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.


It's not you, it's me

The thing about fairy tale retellings is that, well, they're retellings. So right off the bat you've already got that "been there, done that" thing going on. I also find it practically impossible not to draw comparisons to both the original story and other retellings.

And herein lies my biggest problem: Entwined just didn't stack up well enough against the two other 12 Dancing Princesses retellings I've read--and ADORED (Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George and The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell).

I didn't find the twist to the original story as inventive or compelling, the villain wasn't as intriguing, the world building wasn't as immersive, and the explanation for why the princesses were dancing and couldn't talk just didn't hack it for me. And the family thing? 100 times better in The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall.

This isn't to say Entwined was bad. It's just that I didn't head-over-heels love it like I love those other three books and I couldn't help myself from constantly drawing comparisons (I know, totally unfair to Entwined).

Maybe it is a little bit you

Remember how I've said I'm not the kind of reader who really takes note of writing style? Well, I took note here. And NOT in a good way. There were far too many repetitive phrases. If Azalea dug her nails into the palm of her hand one more time I was going to reach into the book and throttle her. She seriously does this all the time. I felt so sorry for her hands. The king also sucks in his cheeks a lot. And do we really need to hear about Bramble's freaking yellow-green eyes every single time she does anything?!

That said though, I thought the Penderwick-like titles for things like The Great Rosebush and Snowball Scandal were absolutely adorable.

But Azalea, oh Azalea.  She's the focus of the third-person narration and she rivals Agnes when it comes to main characters who do stupid things that annoy me because they're so childish and dense. I know people will love her, and truly I did like her in a lot of scenes, but the way she treated her father really bugged me. I thought she was very unfair and childish when it came to him. She pouts, throws fits, and does these totally impulsive and stupid things. Then there's this one scene where she earns herself the Dumbest Move Ever award.

It's characters like Azalea that make me feel really old and stodgy because I just want them to pull it together and be responsible already. On the flip side, I liked pretty much all of the other characters and I loved the responsible and sweet sister Clover. I would have loved this book so much more if Clover were the focus of the narration instead.

Enough "character girl" let's talk about the plot already!

The 12 Dancing Princesses tale is one of my favorites to retell because it has a few key plot points that can be taken in a bunch of interesting directions. Here they are, and here's what I liked and didn't like with Entwined's version:

The mystery of the dancing princesses: 

WHY are they dancing?! This question sets up the story right away with a mystery and, usually, authors answer this question with some sort of curse or other type of entanglement. Given that the name of this book is entwined, I was expecting something awesomely creepy that wrapped the princesses up in layers of dastardly spells. 

Ya know what I got instead? 


Yeah. Now before I start knocking that too much, I have to admit that this was an approach I hadn't read before and for that I appreciated it. The focus on emotions and the relationship development that followed between the sisters and their father after the death of their mother (in the first chapter) was emotional, complex, and ultimately endearing. This is really the crux of the plot, with everything else taking a backseat to the family's relationship.

That said, a creepy curse would have been so much cooler than petty princesses who don't feel like following the conventions of mourning their dead mother. It also would have fit in a lot better. As it is, the magical elements and more obvious parts of the retelling seemed almost out of place to me. It often felt like Heather Dixon had a beautiful story about a family coming to terms with grief and the growth of their relationships but then felt like it needed some sort of drama, so enter the 12 Dancing Princesses retelling bits.

Also, why are there 12 princesses? Why did the mother die? These are key features of the original tale that are usually integrated in the retellings, but they aren't explained in this version. They just ARE, and I was very disappointed with that. It felt sloppy. 


Ok, here's the thing, I don't like useless damsels, but, come on, isn't the idea of a dashing young man pledging himself to rescue the princesses in distress kinda hot? Well, I think so. And the guys in the book are all so sweet.

Did you catch that plural? Not one, not two, but THREE girls have romances with three very different but all totally crushable guys. Each romance is different and fitting the personalities of the different sisters, but each one is adorable in its own way. My one complaint is that I wish the guys and the actual romances were fleshed out a bit more than they were. They're all very MG-level.

I also thought the king was pretty swoon-worthy, too, but I'm older so that's ok. (He just might be my favorite character with all of his complex stoicism covering up a softie heart).

The villain: 

The idea of some creeper living in a magical kingdom under your bedroom is already pretty scary, but when he magically forces you to return to him night after night to dance until your feet bleed with no escape, well, that can be downright terrifying. And here's where I'm really disappointed with Entwined

The villain is creepy, no doubt about that. While the rest of the book is all very MG, the stories about the villain's past deeds and some of the things he does to the girls were totally unsettling for me and would be far too brutal for some of my MG girls who would otherwise love the book.

Even with that, I never felt that terrifying trapped feeling I usually get with this tale. The stakes never felt that high to me (though that might have been because I couldn't care less if Azalea was stuck down there forever). The fact that the princesses were always willing dancers also seriously took away from the sense of consuming peril. 

When bad things finally started to happen (in, like, the final 100 pages) I couldn't help but feel like giving them the "Talk to the hand" signal because they were only getting exactly what they had been courting for the past 300 pages. Actions have consequences, girls!

The world building

I am a total sucker for world building, and ever since I read Jessica Day George's version of the underground kingdom I've been utterly captivated by the possibilities of the 12 Dancing Princesses' underground world. Merrie Haskell created an equally vivid world that is both like and completely unlike JDG's imaginings. But Heather Dixon? 

Totally gypped me on the world building! I could hardly visualize anything in the villain's domain. The silver forest, the lake, the pavilion, nothing. I was SO disappointed, especially given that the regular world was described well. (Bramble's stupid yellow-green eyes must have used up the rest of the description quota). 

Bottom line

I know I'm complaining, a lot, and I do stand by that. I was straight up disappointed with this version. That said, I did still like enough of it to warrant a 3.5 star rating and I'll probably even reread it. This is a nice retelling and I'm glad I read it and own a copy.

It's a very quick read with a page count that's a lot longer than it seems. Even with the less action-oriented plot, Entwined never felt like a long book. I do wish the pacing had been a little brisker, but it's not that type of story.

Though I had a lot of bones to pick with Entwined, I liked it enough that I am on the lookout for whatever Heather Dixon writes next.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Jeez, are you still here? Sorry that was such a long one!
Do you have any questions about Entwined that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Totally disagree with me? Well, you're not alone!
Check out the Review Comparison.

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to Goodreads or my review.


  1. Gotta disagree with you Smalls! Read this before The Princess Curse and it suffered in comparison to Entwined. I loved the feeling of family and sisterhood that filled Entwined as well as the three suitors, who were all very pleasing to me.

  2. If my memory serves me correctly, this one is a long one! I laughed a good one, about you noticing repetitive phrases, I thought it was only my secret pet peeve! In Waterfall Gabi does her share of blowing out her cheeks, did you ever notice that?

    Anyways, quite a lengthy review, I'm not familiar withe the fairytale this story is retelling, so I think I'm still gonna give this one a chance. You liked it enough for me to keep it on my TBR. It just might be one I listen to on audio.

  3. Great review Small! I like the sound of three swoon worth romances. And even though it had it flaws it still sounds like a good read :)

  4. I've heard good and bad things about this, although more good than bad. Your points sound very fair. Ironically, it makes me more curious to read it. Although I'm sure the repeated phrases will drive me batty.

  5. I've had this on my list to read for a while now. Sorry to hear it doesn't stack up well against the other 12 Dancing Princesses stories. Thanks for sharing your review on the book!

  6. This one seems like a pretty good read despite its flaws. I loved George's Princess of the Midnight Ball and have The Princess Curse on my wishlist so I'm looking forward to comparing those with this one.

  7. Wow that was a long one ... but it was interesting to hear what you thought - moans and all. To be honest I've never really fancied this book at all.

  8. aaaaah! Repetitive phrases drive me bananas. Like when a character (Bella) can't stop breathing in the intoxicating sent of her boyfriend's breath. Okay, I get it! He uses better toothpaste than me.


  9. It was only from reading this review that I got an idea of what the original story is about because I'd never heard of it before. It does sound like it could be an interesting jumping off point for many different unique retellings. It sucks that you were disappointed because you've read two better retellings, but I guess someone like me would enjoy it a lot more because I've never read any... That said, why would I read this one now when you've given me two others to read that you say are better? Well, I wouldn't probably. But I appreciate the review and getting an inside into the original story and why this retelling was much better done in other books :)

  10. Meh, I don't think this one would work out for me because I honestly love this tale, I know many versions and re-tellings and it doesn't sound like it brings anything new to the table :(


    'tis sad because the cover is gorgeous.

    And I do hate repetitive phrases!

  11. I love how thorough you are! You basically said everything I meant to say only better! :) Awesome (and honest) review!

  12. I think the biggest reason I wouldn't pick up this book is the writing style, because I zone in on that too (and the characters). If I can't get into the style, I can't enjoy it.

    Awesome review.

  13. Bookworm1858, I know! I totally thought of you when I read the sister parts. I loved them, but they really reminded me a lot of the sisters in The Penderwicks and I thought it was done a lot better in the Penderwicks (You should so read those books!). Aw, I'm sorry you didn't like The Princess Curse as much! I can see with our tastes why each appealed to us more than the other.

    Gina, Very long! Just a hair under 480 pages. I don't remember if I noticed that with Gabi. I don't think I did. I'm really dense with those kinds of things, so when I do actually notice then you know it must have been REALLY repetitive.

    Nic, hehe it was a nice treat to get so many romances. :)

    Alison, I don't think my points were deal breakers, even for me. I can see you liking it, I think. Sometimes seeing a negative review makes me more curious to read a book than a positive review. I think if you can handle the repetitive phrases in Twilight then you should be good to go with Entwined.

    Christy, Well, for me it didn't stack up as well. You can see in the review comparison (next post) that I'm in the minority. :)

    A Canadian Girl, I liked it over all. I hope you do too! I'll be really interested in seeing how you like it compared to the other two versions.

    The Slowest Bookworm, Wasn't it long? I kept trying to cut stuff out and then I'd just add even more stuff. :P

    Missie, Pffahahaha! Yeah, exactly like that. I kept picturing Azalea with blood pouring out of her hands, her father looking like he's sucking on the world's biggest lemon drop, and Bramble with these neon yellow-green beams in her eyes.

    Aylee, Yes, I think if you hadn't read any other versions and if you weren't overly familiar with the original story than you might enjoy this one more than I did. The biggest problem for me was in my comparisons. This one is very different from the other versions, so I think it's still worth the read if you don't try to hold them on the same level.

    Alex, It actually brings a lot new to the table, but "new" was...erm, not as good? I liked it, but I thought other interpretations were more to my liking. I wanted more action.

    Miss Remmers, Thank you!

    Dazzling Mage, The writing style wasn't bad outside of those repetitive phrases. If you can overlook those, then it flowed nicely. It's saying something when a book has so many pages but I (of all people) didn't think it dragged.

  14. Sorry to hear this was a bummer read for you. I own a copy of this book. Haven't read it yet. I love the pretty cover. Wonder why the editor didn't catch all the repetition? Because I've heard so many mixed reviews, I'm curious about reading it. Great review!

  15. What a bummer! I was so hoping you'd love this one... Oh well, there are other books to love. ;) Good review :)

  16. I'd rather read the Princess Curse even if the dress is beautiful! I trust you on the fairytale retellings!



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