I have read several versions of the fairy-tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and while Princess of the Midnight Ball (Jessica Day George) is still...moreI have read several versions of the fairy-tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and while Princess of the Midnight Ball (Jessica Day George) is still my favorite, none of them have chilled me as much as Entwined did.
Heather Dixon did a remarkable job "vamping" this classic fairy-tale, fleshing its original holes out and adding much more danger and drama to the story. All of the characters are unique and wonderful - especially Lord Bradford, who is simply wonderful right off, and Lord Teddie is absolutely hilarious. Every single sister, right down to the littlest, who is just a baby, has their own very distinguishable personality, making it easy to remember who is who, and their characteristics just shine through all the more as the story progresses. Azalea is a wonderfully strong heroine who certainly struggles with many things, but doesn't develop an annoying, haughty attitude because of it. The relationship between the girls and their father offers new insight into why the twelve princesses dance the nights away and never breathe a word about it (something I always wondered myself when I read the fairy-tale, then just concluded that they were spoilt little children. I was never satisfied with this conclusion).
And the Keeper is very intriguing and also very alarming. It is always my opinion that magic lessens the scariness of a villain because they don't have to rely on their own wit and cunning nearly as much (a villain who has it always more threatening, because 1)they have to be very intelligent, and 2)you realize that such people are not just confined to the pages of a book). However, the Author gave Keeper a stupendously creepy personality, and so his magical abilities neither lessen his evilness nor adds to it; the Keeper doesn't need the magic, because he has the intelligence and cruelty all on his own. He is attractive, which I usually consider a plus, because ugly villains are just too cliche, and he is extremely gentlemanly, never losing his cool, and yet his cruelty is easy to trigger. I would never wish to meet him.
The Author's choice to pattern her world after the early Victorian era adds to the effectiveness of the story, as does setting most of it in winter. For some reason, The Twelve Dancing Princesses is one of those fairy-tales that just slips into the fashions and inventions and decor and music of the Victorian era, and Heather Dixon brings it to absolute life with her descriptions and Victorian humor, which combines easily with the dark, creeping drama.
Many books have been described as breathtaking. I've very rarely said such a thing about a story, but such a description fits Entwined perfectly. From page one, I was immediately swept away, completely immersed, picturing everything very vividly. The sweet and silent romance, tear-jerking tragedies, ironic humor, beautiful landscapes, mysterious rooms, and chilling danger all weave a dense web of intensity that gave me the full impression of being breathless. The story becomes progressively darker as the Reader learns more about the Keeper, but it never reached a point where I felt uncomfortable in a way that demonic imagery does. I felt uncomfortable in the way that I did when I read The Red Shoes - pleasantly horrified. I am glad that it was not dark when I read the last few chapters of Entwined, though.
Princess of the Midnight Ball will always remain my absolute favorite re-telling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses - sorry, but it is really hard to beat Galen. But Entwined has to be my second-favorite. It was nice to read the story from the perspective of the princesses for once, rather than the rescuer, and any story that leaves me feeling like I'm waking up from a dream after I've finished it is going to be a favorite. I highly recommend this as a must-read.(less)
These stories just grow better and better with each new installment. The humor is ramped up even further than the last two, though some of them are ba...moreThese stories just grow better and better with each new installment. The humor is ramped up even further than the last two, though some of them are bawdier than Rogue's Home (however, they aren't excessive), and the mystery all the more intriguing. I thought I had it all figured out, but I quickly turned out to be incorrect about a major part of my theory, much to my delight. I always love it when authors can make one solution seem obvious while planting clues to the true answer that are obvious if the Reader looks hard enough. Hilari Bell also manages to keep a good balance of humor and danger. One moment things are pretty light-hearted, then something happens that sends a chill right down the Reader's spine. Few authors can pull that off without making events seem schizophrenic, but she does it.
I dearly hope that Player's Ruse is not the last Knight & Rogue Novel. I absolutely love this series, and I would hate to see it end only after three books.
This is a book that has an equal amount of flaws and good things, which balance each other out and make for an excellent story. Good things first: Cha...moreThis is a book that has an equal amount of flaws and good things, which balance each other out and make for an excellent story. Good things first: Charlotte is an entertaining narrator, and sensible for being thirteen. She doesn't start out as being entirely so, but she matures as the story goes, and it's a fun progression to follow. Captain Jaggery is a pretty believable insane captain - he has enough sanity to appear normal to the everyday person, but spend enough time around him, and you'll see his loose marbles. And Avi took time to do nautical research.
But . . . For all of his research, he still seems to think "rope" and "line" are interchangeable, and some of the events are a little fantastic to be plausible, even in a fairly secluded scenario like a privately-owned merchant ship. Charlotte is a young well-bred girl whose ambition is to be a proper young lady, and while the events on board the ship that cause her to join the crew would certainly be shocking, I don't believe for a minute that it would change her mind about propriety so drastically that she would actually join the crew - even if she were in shock and were acting rashly. It's a big leap for a girl of her breeding to take after one occurrence. It's perhaps a little more believable that the captain would allow it, if only because he is insane, and he's setting her up. But it's still a little hard to believe.
So, circumstances are not entirely possible, but not so absurd as to override the fact that this is a fun adventure - and with a female character who doesn't have The Attitude! I loved this book when I was nine, and I still do, even if my older age has made me realize the improbability of events. I think a great many people will still enjoy it regardless.(less)
A Tale of Two Castles (which, by the way, has no resemblance to Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities) isn't what I expected - and I mean that in a g...moreA Tale of Two Castles (which, by the way, has no resemblance to Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities) isn't what I expected - and I mean that in a good way. I love Gail Carson Levine's stories. I love how she's inspired by old fairy tales (in this case, Puss in Boots) and how witty and self-reliant her heroines are. And I love how she actually weaves a plot into love stories. I was expecting A Tale of Two Castles to be like all her others.
It isn't; not exactly. Elodie is certainly witty and self-reliant. I like just as much as Ella (from Ella Enchanted). But this isn't a romantic story; it's a mystery story with a dragon version of Sherlock Holmes. It was quite unexpected and thoroughly enjoyable. Jonty Um is not your typical ogre. He's polite and quiet, appreciates honesty, and not green or particularly ugly. And Menoore is just awesome. He (in Elorie's world, one does not refer to a dragon as he or she, but IT. However, I maintain that Menoore is a he) hit an immediate chord of likeableness with me, and being a Sherlockian, I could appreciate his deduction and induction abilities.
A Tale of Two Castles comes highly recommended. I was pleasantly surprised by this new type of story and I'm thoroughly glad that I bought it.(less)
I don't know if this is considered a "paranormal romance," but if it is, it is one of the best I have ever read. The Near Witch uses a technique which...moreI don't know if this is considered a "paranormal romance," but if it is, it is one of the best I have ever read. The Near Witch uses a technique which I really like: the village of Near feels very isolated, while at the same time not giving the entire impression that it is totally cut off from the rest of the world, yet cut off enough that the strange occurrences aren't out of place. And the Author never says whether or not Near exists on Earth, or somewhere else, adding on to the eerie, unreal feel. It was dreamlike, and parts of it echoed the Gothic elements of Wuthering Heights, even though the two stories are completely different.
The characters are, for the most part, good. I quickly became attached to the silent, mysterious, sad Cole (the strange boy). The Author brought out his personality in every aspect of his appearance and behavior: his clothes, pale and thin figure, and how very little he talks. These small things really brought depth to him. Lexi, too, is a very strong-minded, resourceful girl (and my Readers know how much I like those) who, despite her hatred for female pastimes, manages not to have The Attitude or get on one's nerves - at least, not always. The Author also does a good job of making certain characters really easy to hate, which is actually a great many; there is not a large number of helpful characters.
Now we come to the writing. I normally do not like first-person present-tense, but it somehow worked exceptionally well for this particular story. The writing is elegant and pleasing, as well as thoroughly eerie and frightening at times. The Author captures the nature of wind - its sounds and touch - in an uncanny manner, reminding me once more what it felt like to lie in my bed some cold winter night when I was very little, listening to the breeze's beckoning call. At times, things grow a little strange (especially at the end), and it was a strangeness that, had it been in any other book, I would not have liked. However, it worked quite well in The Near Witch.
My only real complaint was the romance between Lexi and Cole. It was not nauseating, nor did it lead to inappropriate scenes. But a romantic involvement did not seem to suit Cole's character. There are those characters who are meant to fall in love, and those who are not. Cole did not strike me as the type of character who was supposed to fall in love, and I was sorry that it happened. And while I liked the ending of the book well enough, I had another ending in my head which, had it happened, would have pushed this book up into my Top 10 list - easily. However, the Author was clearly not like-minded when it comes to killing characters, and I am content to accept her decision not to.
The Near Witch is a perfect book for some late, winter night, when the wind is howling outside of your window, and you sit curled up under a pile of blankets in a chair or bed, a cut of hot chocolate at hand and a candle or two. You will be reminded of what it was like as a child.(less)
While Wrapped certainly has allusions to the supernatural (mummy curses, ancient artifacts with power, ect.) and magical, no otherworldly powers come...moreWhile Wrapped certainly has allusions to the supernatural (mummy curses, ancient artifacts with power, ect.) and magical, no otherworldly powers come into play, which surprised me a little. When I first read a synopsis, my first thought was, Oh, this ought to be very strange indeed, and while it is a bit strange in its own way, it is a good strange. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even if the villains were a bit too obvious and some of the dialogue was less than pleasing. Agnes is a very strong, adventurous character whose thoughts and opinions seem properly suited for the sort of "modern" thoughts a girl her age would have had in 1815. In other words, she's not too much ahead of her time. The Author's constant alludements to Jane Austen (A Lady) and her novels will please any Austeneer, as well as lending a more historical feel to the setting (so few historical fiction stories mention the literature of the explored era).
The ending was both predictable, a little cliche, and surprising, leaving room for possible sequels if ever the Author decides to do so. At the same time, though, Wrapped doesn't need any, but I would not protest if there were. Agnes's romantic inclinations towards Caedmon is not vexing like so many "young romances" are in modern literature, and I would enjoy seeing it develop further.
And of course, the backdrop of the Napoleonic War, spies, and Ancient Egypt add much flavor, while making it thoroughly unique to many other historical-set spy stories. Napoleon's fascination with Egyptology is not a subject often explored, nor is the archeological discoveries made during that time, though as the Author points out in her Afterward, "unwrapping" parties (where mummies were unwrapped by party guests for entertainment) were more in vogue in later years. However, it's an acceptable liberty, and makes for a very interesting - and unique - way of introducing the wonderfully engaging events that Agnes and Caedmon soon find themselves "wrapped" up in.
From the very start of Kat, Incorrigible, I was absolutely taken with the witty writing style, the characters, and the situation. Kat is a wonderful h...moreFrom the very start of Kat, Incorrigible, I was absolutely taken with the witty writing style, the characters, and the situation. Kat is a wonderful heroine, whose age makes her attitude not seem like The Attitude, but rather the whims of a very young girl. She's full of spunk, intelligence, and a desire to protect her sisters - even if they are far too prim and proper at times, and always scolding her. Normally I do not like fantasy meddling with historical fiction, but Stephanie Burgis made it work, all the while retaining a Jane Austen-ish flavor to the entire setup.
At first, I expected Elissa and Angeline to be quite aggravating, but I soon found myself as dearly attached to them as I was to Kat, and their respective beaus equally amusing and endearing with their distinctive personalities. The villains are properly alarming, but they are not so scary that they detract from the overall humor of the story. When one has a story like this, which is light-hearted in the way that Jane Austen's works are light-hearted, one cannot have villains which give the Reader nightmares for weeks on end.
I cannot wait for the sequel to Kat, Incorrigible to come out; I am quite anxious to see what occurs when they go on a "relaxing" trip to Bath!(less)
I had my doubts about this book when I first picked it up. I saw it as one that could have the potential of swinging in either direction - and violent...moreI had my doubts about this book when I first picked it up. I saw it as one that could have the potential of swinging in either direction - and violently. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was absolutely captivated by it. Sally Gardner's style of writing for this particular book struck an immediate interest in me. It was very quaint and classic, but hilarious. I laughed myself silly over the passages concerning the Marquis de Villeduval and his extravagances.
Concerning the characters themselves, I have little negative comments. I was concerned that Sido would be like every other aristocratic-bred heroine out there - hard to like and stubborn to an annoying degree. Sido wasn't. She was intelligent, stubborn to a good degree, and trusting of those who ought to be trusted. What bad circumstances happened to her were not brought on by her own stupidity, but simply bad circumstances. My heart went out to her completely. Yann, too, is a very likable character, and not the typical modern adolescent hero who cannot stop thinking about the heroine. Yann does think about Sido, but it is terms of rescuing her, not how smooth her skin is. Those sort of thoughts are always covered in the quickest and most fleeting manner, which is pleasing. And Count Kalliovski gave me tingles up my spine, which usually means that he is an excellent villain.
However, Sally Gardner likes to dabble in the strange. Her stories can seem very normal, but then there will be an element that will make you pause and wonder, "Where did she get that?!" Yann reading minds and Tetu the dwarf being able to move objects without touching them were acceptable. Strange, but acceptable. But then things became stranger when Yann visits a group of Gypsies in London, and then later breaks into Kalliovski's townhouse. That is when it got really strange. It didn't entirely ruin my high opinion of the story itself, but it certainly puzzled me. It wasn't entirely out of place, but then again, it didn't fit in. It was just strange. Thankfully, such parts are not common in The Red Necklace.
I look forward to reading its sequel - The Silver Blade.(less)
I've read a lot of renditions of The Twelve Dancing Princess. Some of them have been good, some of them have been bad. I was expecting this one to be...moreI've read a lot of renditions of The Twelve Dancing Princess. Some of them have been good, some of them have been bad. I was expecting this one to be just as moderately-good as the rest. I was very pleasantly surprised. I know I have said this in previous reviews: I tip my hat to authors who can make me fall in love with their characters. Orchid, Poppy, Lily - all twelve princesses I quickly began to regard as my own sisters, the younger ones especially. And Galen is the exact sort of brother I would love to have. I cared about Rose and Galen's fate more than I have cared about characters in a long time.
Aside from the characters, Jessica Day George's setting for the story was brilliant. What I love second to stories based in the actual world? Stories that are based in a world that is heavily based off of our world and a specific time period. In this case, early nineteenth-century Germany. I loved it. I also loved her "spins" on the other countries - Spania (Spain), Roma (presumably Italy, since Rome is, in Italian, called Roma), etcetera. She even went so far as to put the Catholic church into the story, though never addressed it as such. Had it not been for the names of places, I might have thought I was reading one of those "historical fantasy" books. You know - that new genre for writers to take a historical era from the real world and throw in magic.
I was completely swept away by Princess of the Midnight Ball. I knew how the story would end - goodness, how many times have I read The Twelve Dancing Princess?? But I still found myself in complete suspense, gasping out loud and biting my nails in concern. And of course, when the end came, I gave a huge sigh of relief and closed the cover with a contented smile. After reading Mira, Mirror, which had a thoroughly unsatisfying ending, this book was perfect.
Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George will definitely be added to my shelves.(less)