As much as I like the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale, this was not its strongest retelling. (Spoilers may lie ahead.)Characters:
I was less than pleased with the main character, Princess Azalea. Her tendency to relate everything she sees and does through a dance metaphor or simile was a contributing factor; for all the importance dancing held in her life, to translate all experience through it didn't work for me. Her character was also a little flighty and impulsive; it didn't mesh with my understanding of and expectations for an oldest child or a crown princess.
The sisters were named and given at least one recognizable trait a piece, but I saw little character development in the majority. Too often, they played foils, set ups for Azalea. The king, I felt, was a missed opportunity. As we are bound by Azalea's perceptions and interactions, he spends much of the book as an ill formed caricature, and when Azalea finally understands him to be more, his screen time seems to shrink. Moreover, it was only in the last few chapters that we got some real personality out of him. I realize his wife just died, but he needn't have been such a wet brick for so long. Even the grieved have an emotional range beyond sad and/or angry.
Keeper was, again, a missed opportunity. He was a decent villain, but he could have been creepier or remained uncomfortably creepy. The distant manipulation was more interesting and unsettling than the blatant sexual harassment. As for the other "love interest," Mr. Bradford, I didn't have a problem with him per se, but the way his character was used. (See Romance.) Lord Teddie may have been the only character in the book I genuinely liked. He was a loud-mouthed bumbler, but he was fun! The girls were flouting the rules of mourning; why didn't the author follow their example more often?Romance:
I had issues with Azalea's definition of "love." She seemed to fall for any man who wasn't just interested in being king and was mildly attractive. Her infatuations with both Keeper and Bradford stemmed from the physical and remained largely in that realm. It never reached a deeper kind of relationship, the more mature love I prefer to see if romance must be a part of the story. Because of this, I could stand the Bramble/Teddie and Clover/Fairweller relationships better, maybe because the author actually had to show, not tell that they cared for one another; and when the girls explained why they loved the guys, they mentioned character traits (e.g., "sober"), not character looks. It also probably helped that I wasn't in Bramble's and Clover's heads hearing them constantly moon over how handsome someone looked. "Cinnamon bread eyes." By the fifth repeat, I wanted to gouge out his eyes and hers.Plot:
The princesses unleash an ancient evil through their quest for frivolity and nearly destroy what's left of their family. It's all one giant mistake of their own making, a train wreck waiting to happen. I can't say I enjoy watching soon-to-be train wrecks. It doesn't help that the princesses are pretty doggone spoiled for being "poor," and pretty doggone useless. They don't seem like princesses at all. I was also irked that no one is ever majorly punished. I realize everyone's happy the king's alive at the end, but really? The Princess Royale steals a horse, loses and breaks a priceless national treasure, unleashes an evil ghost bent on destroying her father, is stupid enough to create a clone duel sequence, and she gets what? Marriage to the guy of her dreams? Seriously?! On the bright side, I powered through because I was interested in seeing where the author was going. On the dark side, where the author went disappointed me, repeatedly.Writing:
Heavy repetition of certain words/phrases/informational paragraphs. I noticed the author repeating or nearly repeating words and phrases, particularly with reference to characters, maybe in an effort to make them more easily memorable for the reader. I get that a character's traits are often continuous, but hearing the same words at every appearance ... it's a personal pet peeve.Conclusion:
I liked the book's tie-in to the family theme, but was disappointed by its reducing (alleged) love to a bundle of hormones and physical characteristics and by its main character. The idea was interesting, but the execution wasn't my cup of tea.