Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Entwined by Heather Dixon (College Review)

For my first college paper a few weeks ago, we wrote a review, and seeing as I chose Entwined, I decided I'd share it with you guys.  It is, of course, very long - over 1,000 words.  Also, I have previously written a review of Entwined, however it was a really long time ago and I think has about ten words in all in it.

     Even before Entwined was released, I was already looking forward to reading it.  The cover art was beautiful and the summary drew me in with its mentions of my favorite genre.  I admittedly had very high hopes for this book before even picking it up.  Suffice to say, the novel entertained me from start to finish, and left me with a happy memory of my experience long after finishing the book.  Entwined is and entertaining story for all readers, whether they are fans of the fairy tale genre or not.

     The book, which is an adaption of The Worn Out Dancing Slippers or The Twelve Dancing Princesses, follows the twelve sisters of the fairy tale after the death of their mother.  With their already distant father distancing himself even further from the girls, and the traditional mourning period revoking their ability to dance, the sisters turn to a secret passageway for escape.  The passageway leads to a beautiful place filled with dancing and joy, and lets them be away from the worries their impoverished kingdom and saddening home life leaves them with.  Of course, all is not what it appears, and soon enough secrets are unearthed about the hidden passageway that has the characters caught up in an evil thought to be a legend.  While the story has a romantic plot along with a villain to be defeated, the main focus is on the sisters themselves, and their dealing with their mothers passing.  It also largely focuses on the sister’s withdrawn father, and how their relationship grows with him over time.

          The story closely follows the tale it is based on, but is diverse enough from the tale that it is not a carbon copy of the original fairy tale.  It takes the fairy tales limited content and expands upon it, providing details that solidify the stories more unusual aspects, such as the father locking his daughters in their room and the kingdom filled with a forest of gold and silver.  While readers will no doubt recognize the familiar childhood tale in the books content, they will also find new depths to it.  The novel expands upon the fairy tale, adding emotions to the actions of the characters, allowing the reader to experience a new found love for the well-known fairy tale.

     The book is entertaining and fast paced, and though it mainly focuses on the eldest princess, Azalea, several of the other sisters are given their own sub-story, and all twelve of them get a decent amount of time to become familiar to the reader.  The girl’s father, though at first coming off as abrasive and cruel, becomes a more likeable character as the book goes on.  The villain, a charming yet frightening character, will send shivers down the reader’s spine and will shock them with a surprising reveal.  The soldier of the story, along with the other princes who come to solve the mystery of the worn out dancing slippers, are all very likeable – or so unlikeable the reader will enjoy hating them.  With such a large assortment of personalities, Entwined has many intriguing characters that will keep readers invested in their stories and emotions.

    Of course, the many characters not only make the read more enjoyable, but also pose as one of the biggest issues with this novel, as they usually do with other novels based on the same fairy tale.  It makes sense.  Most books only have three or less main characters, a few secondary characters, and background characters.  And while this story does limit itself to one main character and a small amount of secondary characters, there are an enormous amount of background characters.  With twelve sisters, a villain, family, and love interests, at times it seems as though the book is too full with their stories.  However, the author does a good job of keeping the cast independent of themselves.  By giving each character, from the princesses to the background characters, specific details about their background or personalities to remember, when a name is produced you can usually link it to the right character. 

     As with the characters, the excess of plot does make the novel seem a bit packed at times.  Though there is only one main character, there are many sub-plots involved in the story.  It is at times tough to remember each detail of these plots, and some transitions between each plot can be a little rough or sudden.  However, each plot is captivating and enjoyable, both on its own and in the entire scheme of things.  The mysteries laced in the narrative will make the reader intrigued in the novel while the twists to the story that tie into what you have already read will give the reader a surprise.  The reader will be entertained with each sub-plot, and will be left on the edge of their seats to see how each comes to its conclusion. 

     Another issue the novel faces is that of originality.  Most popular fairy tales have already had adaptions written of them before, leaving the author with no choice but to use some already used ideas or points. With a building block already set in place – every night twelve sisters dance until their shoes are worn out, the king decrees whoever finds out where they go can marry one of the sisters, and a soldier is the one who follows them to an underground palace where they dance with princes – it is very hard to vary from the original story while still being in the quota of a fairy tale retelling.  Entwined is no exception, with similar villains and story plots.  Still, the read is fun, and many aspects of the story put itself apart from most retellings of the common fairy tale and leave the reader surprised with the outcome.

     The writing of the story is one of its major strong suits.  Though at times the author loses her consistent tone and the writing becomes a little weak, most of the book is beautifully and eloquently written.  Phrases such as “how daintily the butterfly flits to the spider's lace, entranced by glimm'ring silver strings, entwined with glist'ning grace” will leave the readers with a thrill of excitement at the lyrical tone the writer often uses.  Only once or twice in the book does the writing grow weak and subsequently pull the reader out of the story.  In fact, for the most part, the reader will be so absorbed with the story that the slips in writing will not affect them strongly.                

     Though this book has its faults, the overall impression the reader will be left with is one of satisfaction.  I went into the book with high hopes, and left it satisfied.  This was a book I did not wish to set down until its completion.  The novel is charming and entertaining, with lovely writing, an entrancing story, and unforgettable characters.  Heather Dixon’s debut novel is undoubtedly one of the best books I have read in the fairy-tale retelling genre, and the poignant story and captivating writing will leave the readers with a fond memory of this enchanting book long after they finish it.