Like George's previous book I read, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, Princess of the Midnight Ball is an adaptation of one of my favorite fairy tales, "The Twelve Dancing Princesses". Its not very very often that I find books, longer then a picture book, using this fairy tale. There is, depending on the version and translation, several different ways to interpret the tale, but they're all sort of...complicated.
The story follows, for the most part, a young soldier named Galen as he returns to his mother's homeland from the long War. The novel also follows Rose, the eldest Princess, but a lot more time is spent on Galen who is a stranger to the city and to his mother's family. I liked Galen; good-natured, a hard worker and charming, he wanted to do right by everyone he met. And that sort of karma paid off for him in ways he could never have imagined.
Rose was also very endearing. Though sweet and good-natured herself, she grew more spirited as the book wore on and she became hopeful that something could be done to break the curse. I wouldn't say her 11 sisters were exactly interchangeable--but really only 4 stood out from the rest in any significant way. Poppy--mischievous and adventurous where her quieter twin Daisy was not; Lily, the second oldest who understood Rose's pain quite well; Violet, who adored music and Hyacinth who was devoutly religious and suffered more than the others perhaps by the curse. Actually its something of a joke for the 12 sisters--the three oldest are called 'the older set', the three youngest are called 'the younger set' and then the six in between were called 'the in betweeners'.
On an emotional level I felt bad for the girls, but I knew that good would triumph so it was a little shallow feeling. I grew more worried with how the curse would end then anything else (several times I thought George was going to pull a martyr routine with one of the girls). Galen's scheme, was very very clever and relied on both cunning and luck. The end was also nicely tied up, with a bunch of loose ends fixed and happy thoughts all around.
Parts of the book felt very drawn out, such as how long it took Galen to get around to figuring things out vs. how long it took him to 'fix' the problem so to speak. And the visiting Bishop was annoying and creepy; he hammered home how little I cared for the clergy.
Poppy, incidentally, is getting her own book called Princess of Glass which is a re-imaging of "Cinderella". I can't wait; I simply adore George's fairy tale re-tellings and hope for a few more.
Princess Rose and her eleven younger sisters are enigmas to their father, the king, and all of their servants. They are charming, lovely, and kind girls, yet they refuse to say why almost every morning their dancing slippers are worn to rags. And they continue their silence, despite threats and guards who are with them constantly. Galen is a young soldier turned gardener who can't get Princess Rose or the mystery of the princesses' dancing slippers out of his head, and despite the deadly consequences … more
The Brothers Grimm tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses is vibrantly retold and set in a fictionalized nineteenth-century Europe. Galen, a soldier (and knitter) returning home from war, encounters an old woman who gives him an invisibility cloak and yarn possessing magical powers. While working as a gardener at the palace, he encounters the princess, Rose, and her 11 younger sisters. Because of a secret bargain their mother made with the evil King Under Stone, the princesses are cursed to dance each night till their shoes are worn ragged. Aided by the good magic held in his yarn, Galen solves the puzzle that has stumped many a prince and earns Rose’s love and hand in marriage. Though cursed and in need of rescue, the sisters are feisty and cunning—not passive victims of their fate. Galen’s magical knitting patterns will appeal to teens fond of this trendy hobby. This is a well-realized and fast-paced fantasy-romance that will find favor among fans of fairy tales, feisty heroines, and dashing young men with strength, cunning, and sensitivity. Grades 6-10. --Heather Booth--This text refers to theHardcoveredition.