Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Phoenix Dance” as Want to Read:
The Phoenix Dance
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Phoenix Dance

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  616 ratings  ·  50 reviews
A journey through madness and mania.
On the island of Faranor in the kingdom of Windward, twelve princesses dance their shoes to shreds each night. No one knows why. Not the king or queen. Not the knights, lords, or ladies-in-waiting. When the queen blames the royal shoemaker, his apprentice, Phoenix Dance, puts her life at risk to solve the mystery. She braves magic
Hardcover, 273 pages
Published October 11th 2005 by Farrar Straus Giroux
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Phoenix Dance, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Phoenix Dance

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  616 ratings  ·  50 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Phoenix Dance
Apr 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Young Phoenix Dance has ambitions of being a great shoe designer. Some days her talent is immense, other days... it isn't. Phoenix suffers from what is essentially bipolar disorder by a more fantastic name. Medication is available, but is being "normal" worth losing her periods of intense energy and creativity?

The mental health aspect of this book is well-developed and sensitively treated. Unfortunately, I was really expected to get a more fairy-tale-ish fantasy, what with the blurb and being
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: forest_2016
I love the 12 Dancing Princesses and so wanted to love this book. The introduction of a bipolar shoemaker takes a bit from the retelling actually and none of the characters are really very likable. A nice story for the YA group, but not so much for adults.
May 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
I love the Twelve Dancing Princesses. I've read different adaptations of this fairy tale and have always been intrigued. However, this particular book did not impress me.

Its a quick read,focussing on Phoenix Dance, a 13 year old girl who longs to be a shoemaker. She's also bipolar, which is the focal point of the story. In the midst of her struggles (which were handled gently, even if they did take up the entire story)she tries to find a way to rescue the 12 princesses from the spell which is
The Phoenix Dance takes place in the same city as Aria of the Sea, years later; several of the characters from the first book appear, but not as main characters. Here, Calhoun takes on a challenging subject: bipolar disorder (which she says in the book's afterword that she has herself). Phoenix is a young apprentice shoemaker who suffers from what the healers call the Illness of Two Kingdoms: the Kingdom of Brilliance, and the Kingdom of Darkness. When she is drawn into a mystery surrounding the ...more
Feb 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
I just read The Phoenix Dance It is about a girl, named Phoenix, with bipolar set in the fairytale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. It feels contrived in places (because of some therapy sessions with a healer explaining her condition), but it was really interesting to get inside this girl's head. The author has bipolar and so it feels authentic that way. The language that she uses to describe how Phoenix sees the world is beautiful in places.

*****Spoiler: If you are very romantically inclined,
Cora Lee
Apr 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book does an amazing job of introducing all the issues and challenges of having a bipolar disorder. At the same time, it is an engaging story. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand more about this disorder or who wants to start a discussion about it.
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dia Calhoun does it again... she is rapidly becoming one of my most respected authors for her excellent writing, the fantastic societies she describes, and her realistic heroines she uses!

This is a loose sequel to "Aria of the Sea," in that a few of the main characters from that novel (view spoiler) appear in this one in minor roles. This book focuses on a young girl (15) named Phoenix Dance, who lives with her aunts in the
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
My daughter recommended this book, and what drew me to it was its imaginative retelling of the fairy tale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," and also its incorporation of a mental disorder, bipolar disorder, and in engaging and believable way. I believe we need more visibility on what it's like to live with a disorder or disability, and this book was a refreshing take on that. As a young adult novel, it holds up pretty well; I found myself skimming much of the book because it didn't really hold my ...more
Jul 20, 2010 rated it liked it
A retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses. The main character is bipolar and a shoemaker. The story and characters were engaging but the world needed some fleshing out. It always felt like the history/religion/culture of the Windward was seen through a dirty window. I would read key sections but it seemed like a brief blurry glimpse into something significant but you never get to see the connections.
Jennifer Lynn
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
When I started this book and realized where it was heading I thought for sure I was not going to like it. The reason being is I have found most junior books that try to tackle mental illness and explain it to a younger audience do a horrible job, but "Phoenix Dance" was a pleasant surprise. This retake on the fairytale of the Twelve Princesses and the Dancing Shoes is told from the eyes of a young girl named Phoenix who wants to be a shoemaker. She is a wonderful character who is pleasant and ...more
Phoenix dreams of making shoes, so it seems like a dream come true when the shoemaker's shop she lives close to advertises for an apprentice. Somehow, she gets the job. The shoemaker must have seen her passion underneath all that dirt.

So she begins as an apprentice, but it is nothing like what she hoped. She mostly does all the menial chores that no-one else wants to do. Then a Royal commission comes in, to make shoes for the 12 princesses who dance their shoes to tatters every night. Phoenix
Phoenix Dance becomes an apprentice to the royal shoemaker. When the 12 princesses keep wearing out their shoes each night, the shoemaker is blamed for making lousy shoes. The queen declares that anyone who can solve the mystery of the shoes will get a handsome reward. Phoenix takes on this challenge, while also facing her own internal problems- the Illness of Two Kingdoms, or as we call it in our world- bipolar disorder.

I found this book quite enjoyable- the story was exciting and drew me in
Feb 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ya-fantasy
Phoenix Dance wants more than anything to be a shoe apprentice to the greatest shoemaker in the city. When she gets her wish, she ends up in the middle of a royal mystery- the 12 royal princesses received new pairs of shoes, but overnight they wore them out with dancing, when all wittnesses say they were actually asleep in their beds! Can Phoenix solve the royal mystery, as well as the one that seems to be affecting her?

What is with these OBVIOUS BOOKS, Dia Calhoun???? This book was less about
The best part of this story is it's portrayal of the main character's illness of two kingdoms (involving a high bright energetic mood phase and an extreme dark low mood phase, it has another name here of course) which meshes with the 12 dancing princess story very well.

I can't give it 4 stars because the societal anachronism jarred me out of the story. Repeatedly. Yes it's a fantasy setting. But certain issues arise in certain societies for a reason. You can't just put in your favorite or most
Feb 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed parts of this book. I am familiar with the 12 dancing princesses and I have enjoyed many versions of the story, but I wasn't in love with this version. The author has put bipolar disorder into the story making the main character, Phoenix bipolar and the princesses suffering from a magic version of the disorder. When they dance at night they are in their high or mania, in the morning they are tired, worn out and in their depressed stage. Phoenix is the shoemaker suffering from bipolar ...more
The Twelve Dancing Princesses is one of my favorite fairy tales, and Dia Calhoun writes a neat treatment of the familiar story. In it, the main character Phoenix is a shoemaker's apprentice who also has bipolar disorder, which is described very poetically. The inclusion of bipolar was an interesting choice that added a lot to the story, but in the end these descriptions of the disorder became very repetitive and the sole focus of the story. (I suppose that's the point, that these highs and lows ...more
Faith Chin
Sep 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Phoenix Dance loves to make shoes. She dreams of becoming an apprentice to the royal shoemaker. And soon, she does! Her dreams finally came true. She can design shoes in a heartbeat. The 12 princess in the castle kept wearing out their shoes each night. No one knows how and why. The queen blames the royal shoemaker for this. The queen proposes that if anyone can solve the mystery of the worn out shoes, she'll give a reward. Phoenix Dance goes up for the challenge. She noticed that the princess ...more
Oct 31, 2011 rated it it was ok
This was an ok book, but I felt it spent to much time on Phoenix's illness, "The Two Kingdoms" (aka Bipolor Disorder) and not enough on the fairy tale it was based on. I understand that the story was mainly about Phoenix learning to live with her disease, but in the end I felt there were to many descriptions about it and not enough of Phoenix truly learning to live with it. Also, none of the characters were particularly memorable or likable, and the story ended rather quickly with the Twelve ...more
Lexie Owen
Jun 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Pheonix Dance is an imaginative retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. The story is told from the perspective of the princesses' unexpected hero. Calhoun pours one of the most difficult aspects her life into the character of Pheonix Dance. Though imaginitive, strong-willed, and talented, Pheonix suffers from the illness of The Two Kingdoms, better known in our world as Bipolar Disorder. As we follow Pheonix through her quest to solve the mystery of the twelve princesses, we also ...more
Sep 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
I really liked that fact that this was from the perspective of a bipolar/manic-depressive young girl. It was interesting in the time setting, and the struggle to deal with her affliction and the imperfect treatment for it was very poignant. I like to see childern's and middle grade books that give perspective on life problems in a kid-friendly style. Reading gives you insight; the more understanding of problems a person is or will, or other people are and will, experience the better.*
However, it
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favs
I loved this book. Before this book, I did not really know about bipolar disorder. Therefore, this book enlightened me to the struggles of bipolar disorder, while also providing an interesting twist on the story of the 12 Dancing Princesses. The description of Phoenix's feelings when she is depressed or high was captivating, and it really made me sympathize with Phoenix. I liked how the author realistically portrayed that Phoenix not only had a fear of what would happen if her disease ...more
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
This is an interesting adaptation of The Dancing Princesses. The Princesses each had a different quirky personality. And instead of a Prince discovering their secret, a young girl, Phoenix Dance, who had an extraordinary gift helps the Princesses. What I did not like about this story was the resolution of Phoenix's story. Without giving too much away, when fairy tale writers take a wonderfully magical, creative story, and then end it by introducing some real world circumstance that just feels ...more
This book is a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses with a focus on mental diseases - Bipolar II Disorder in particular. That isn't a bad thing it just felt like someone used a fairy tale to make people listen to their soapbox speech in a way. There were other things I didn't like about the book - the manipulative and rude best friend Rora, the empty romance that only served to show how giving in to the disorder can negatively impact your life, the weird renamings but not reworkings of the ...more
Aug 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I have always loved retellings of the story of the 12 dancing princesses, and this book did not disappoint! I really enjoyed how the author told the story from the different perspective of the shoemaker's apprentice :) It was such an incredible journey.

Not only was the tale done justice by superb writing, but the book tied in some major themes as well. Much of it was centered around a young girl's struggle with manic-depressive (bipolar) disorder, and the story really touched on how people who
Cecilia Rodriguez
Jun 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Although the plot has cameos from Aria of the Sea, it is not necessary to read it first.
In this version of Grimm's: "Twelve Dancing Princess," the reader is introduced to Phoenix, a young woman who wants to design shoes.
Calhoun draws on personal experience to describe Phoenix's mental illness(bipolar disorder) and links it to the curse that forces the twelve princesses to wear out their shoes every night.
Calhoun maintains a good balance between the fairytale world and the reality of living with
Aug 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Phoenix always wanted to design shoes, and she has plenty ideas. When the shoemaker gets blamed for making bad shoes that the princesses destroy every night, Phoenix gets a job at the shoemakers to help out the overwhelming need for shoes. But those shoes get destroyed too! So Phoenix follows the princesses at night and discovers a magical place where the princesses dance and destroy their shoes. They are possessed by a magician who Phoenix destroys in an epic battle of sorts. Based on a ...more
Erin Sterling
3.5 I first learned about this book when I saw the author speak and talk about how she decided to write a fantasy book (based on the fairy tale, the 12 Dancing Princesses) about bipolar disorder , since she personally had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The book does an excellent job portraying bipolar disorder from a fantasy standpoint. Phoenix is an apprentice to a shoemaker and her emotions swing from the Kingdom of Brilliance to the Kingdom of Darkness. Can she help save the 12 ...more
Jun 06, 2010 rated it liked it
This one would get three and a half stars if Goodreads allowed for half stars. There was enough invention to keep it entertaining while staying fairly true to "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." It was interesting to read the author's use of a mental disorder in the main character, but it seemed a little too prominent, as if the story of the dancing princesses was contrived to make a book about her disease. But perhaps that is what the author intended.
Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
This was really not what I expected when I picked up this book. I thought it was good, but very strange, about a girl who has something like bi-polar disease, with a little bit of another story intertwined. Overall, not one of my favorite reads, but it was written with excellent perspective, I thought. I gave it two stars only because it is not really my type of book.
Lia Marcoux
Mar 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
This story was not strong enough to bear the weight of all the preaching about mental illness. I really like the idea of incorporating something potentially so important to the reader (how many heroines of books aimed at teenage girls actually struggle with depression or gain weight? Not many! Props!) but it was agenda first, story second, and that made this book a clunker.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Because of Winn-Dixie
  • The Swan Maiden
  • The Thirteenth Princess
  • Changeling (Changeling, #1)
  • The Fairy's Mistake (The Princess Tales, #1)
  • Out of the Wild (Into the Wild, #2)
  • The Frog Princess
  • The Wide-Awake Princess (Wide-Awake Princess, #1)
  • Dealing with Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #1)
  • The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs
  • Snow in Summer
  • Once Upon a Toad
  • Fortune's Folly
  • Goose Chase
  • Zel
  • The Curse of the Pharaoh (Agatha, Girl of Mystery #1)
  • The Universe Speaks in Numbers: How Modern Maths Reveals Nature's Deepest Secrets
  • Bite Me (A Love Story, #3)
See similar books…
Author, essayist, and poet Dia Calhoun won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature for her novel Aria of the Sea. Three of her eight novels are American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults. Calhoun’s contemporary novel Eva of the Farm was a Hornbook Magazine Best Verse Novel. Reviewing Calhoun’s most recent book, After the River the Sun School Library Journal wrote—“ ...more