Azalea is the oldest of eleven girls - soon to be twelve. Her mother has been sickly for a couple of years, and now that the baby is about to come, she is worse off than ever. Before the Christmas Ball, the queen asks Azalea to promise to keep her sisters safe - to protect them. Azalea promises, determined to keep that promise.
The girls' mother dies only a short while after.
Now, in mourning, the girls are not allowed outside, they cannot visit with anyone except on R.B. (royal business), and they cannot dance. But dancing is their way of life - it is what their mother taught them to do, what keeps them going and joyful through the day. They must dance.
When the girls discover a secret tunnel that leads to a breautiful, magical pavilion, they are invited to dance there every night by the Keeper, a dark, gorgeous, and silky smooth young man who seems to have an eye for Azalea. But when things start to get out of hand (the girls learn that the Keeper likes to keep things), family ties are strengthened, and romance buds, the girls must find their way out of a trap that could very well lose their lives - and the lives of those most precious to them - to an terrible cursed gentleman who wants nothing but revenge.
My thoughts -
Ohhhhhh sigh...happy happy sigh. I was hooked from the very beginning. The massive amount of character, the darling relationships between the sisters, the perfect fairy tale world - it made my heart flutter. Even when there wasn't a lot of action or mystery, it was still undeniably interesting and fascinating. Everything about this world inspired me and made me want to live there, even if just for a time. It became my favorite castle, my favorite fantasy country (the landscaping Heather Dixon did was magical!), and my favorite magical underground pavilion.
Seriously, this world is perfect. It's exactly what I, personally, feel should be every fairy tale (even though that's impossible). I've had this vision of the perfect fairy tale world - what it should look, feel, smell like - and I've waited a long time to to read a fairy tale that's like it. This one hits the bull's eye. Completely and utterly. It had just the right amount of creepy, lovely, feminine, adventure, mystery, beauty, silver, glass, black, colors, dancing, romance, personality, and magic. I'm so impressed!
Character notes -
I loved all of the sisters, each and every one of them. Each one had her own lovely something to add to the story: a cute lisp, an adorable stutter, beautiful long hair, a love for reading, a brash vocabulary, or a desire to serve. And they all love to dance, which bonds them together.
Azalea was a beautiful example of an elder sister who loves her sisters more than herself and will do everything she can to help/protect/serve them. Bramble is a personal favorite, just because of her "colorful" word choices. She always uses words that don't quite sound princess-y, but they are perfect for her wild personality. Her relationship with Delphinium made me laugh - they reminded me of Jo and Amy March from Little Women, respectively. The practical girl with the straightforward way of speaking, compared to the romantic girl who is always dramatic - it's a duo that I'll never get tired of. All the rest of the girls were just as wonderful but....as there are twelve of them...I shouldn't get into it. I could probably write individual books about them, they all have so much to offer! ;)
Now on to the gentlemen. There were a lot of male characters presented in this story, which I loved. They were all so unique! The King was a great character because of the conflict he brought to the story. Minister Fairweller was awesome; he may not be a favorite of the characters but I, personally, loved him. Lord Teddie... OH! He had me rolling on the floor laughing for minutes on end - and that's NOT an exaggeration! I would laugh out loud, snort, snicker, and just giggle hysterically. He had the funniest vocabulary!! And for anyone who has read/seen Little Dorrit - he totally reminded me of Edmund Sparkler!! Mr. Keeper is, without a doubt, one of my favorite antagonists. He was so smooth and richly handsome - but I never really knew if he was good or bad. He had me chilled to the bone and then doubting my own feelings about him. Wow.
And, last but most certainly not least.... Mr. Bradford. Lord Bradford. Captain Bradford. I love him. Forget all those super sleek and beautiful and dashing men - Mr. Bradford made me grin from ear to ear in happiness, and shortly into the book he had me wishing I was Azalea. His ruffled hair, stiff collar, and quiet selflessness all had me wishing he'd appear out of the book and fall for me! (Unfortunately, these things never do happen...)
Story notes -
This story had me on my toes the entire time. I read at a minimum one hundred pages a day and had the book with me at all times. I wished for more, more, more! The twists and turns and the originality of it (all the while keeping really close to the Grimms' story) were almost too good to be true. Like I said above about waiting for a book to have that certain feel about - it was just...so perfect. There were no breaks in the story line, the writing flowed gracefully from beginning to end, and there was always something new to chew on. There were a few scenes that really stood out to me (the masque ball, the broken ornaments, the mirrors, the funny scenes with the girls asking the men on R.B. obnoxious questions), but honestly, every scene was phenomenal. Really. :D
One word to sum it up (final thoughts) -
I'm going to do something I've never done before - take from the title. Entwining. This book pulled me in with graceful fingers and let me go with a lasting impression - something I'll never forget. I want my children to one day read this gorgeous version of this fairytale because it is just so wonderful! (And just so you all know - someday, I want to show my husband the Soul's Curtsy. That scene melted my heart!)
Nothing for the parents! This was an extremely clean book!