A 2011 retelling of the Fairy Tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses
, by Heather Dixon.
The Queen of Eathesbury dies giving birth
to her twelfth
daughter, leaving the royal family distraught. As tradition dictates, they’re to spend the next year in mourning. This includes no dancing, which happens to be the princesses favorite past time. To make matters worse, at the time the girls need their father most, the King is pushing them away, leaving them feeling trapped and betrayed.
One night Azalea, the eldest, discovers a secret passage in their bedroom fireplace that leads to an enchanted pavilion. The owner, who was magically imprisoned within the castle walls hundreds of years ago, known only as The Keeper
, invites them to dance there every night to their hearts content till mourning is over. But the Keeper isn’t doing it out of the goodness of his heart. He wants to be free
, and he's determined to make sure Azalea breaks the enchantment holding him there...
The book provides examples of:
- Abhorrent Admirer: The Keeper seems really fixated on Azalea. It's not his looks that make him repulsive though (definitely not) but his empty eyes, his creepy attitude, and Azalea’s growing awareness that he's got ulterior motives.
- A few of the suitors. Viscount Duquette is noted as being handsome, but insufferable and ruthless in his pursuit of Clover. Mr Penbrook's eagerness and obliviousness to Azalea’s lack of interest completely put her off.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Azalea finds herself quite attracted to Keeper at first, and her sisters tease that when he's released she’ll marry him. She quickly wises up though.
- Alphabetical Theme Naming/Floral Theme Naming: Each princess is named after a plant, in alphabetical order of birth. Azalea, Bramble, Clover, Delphinium, Evening Primrose, Flora, Goldenrod, Hollyhock, Ivy, Jessmine, Kale, Lily.
- Arranged Marriage: All the girls are resigned to the fact their husbands will probably be picked for them. Azalea most so, since when there are no male heirs, parliemtn elects who'll be the next king.
- Big Eater: Ivy has a never-ending appetite. It's considered a great compliment if she shares her food with you.
- Birth-Death Juxtaposition: Lily comes into the world just as her mother leaves it. And to make matters worse, it's on Christmas.
- Black Eyes of Evil: Keeper, although it takes some time for the princesses to notice them.
- Blackmail: Keeper steals the watch Bradford lent to the girls, as a way to push them into searching for the object that's imprisoning him. When he thinks they aren't motivated enough he steals their mothers brooch.
- Blood Magic/Blood Oath: The Keeper tells the story of how the High King drank a goblet of blood and made an oath on it to never truly die until he had murdered the Captain General. It turns out he’s talking about himself.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Lord Teddie has a hard time directly telling Bramble how he feels about her.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: What the High King liked to do to people, and what he wants to do to the girls if he gets out.
- Death by Childbirth: The Queen dies giving birth to Lily.
- Everyone Loves Blondes: Clover, who's regarded as the most beautiful of the sisters and has a lot of potential suitors eyeing her up.
- Fiery Redhead: Bramble, although her hair leans more towards brown.
- Foreshadowing: Rampant. Eathesbury's violent history involving Harold the First killing the High King is frequently talked about, making it not all that surprising when the Big Bad is the High King himself. Also, anything involving silver.
- “Wraith cloaks” are briefly mentioned when talking about how the kingdom used to be full of magic. Guess what Lord Bradford uses to find out where the girls are going at night.
- Evil All Along: Keeper, to no one’s surprise.
- Evil Is Deathly Cold: Keeper always has an ice cold touch.
- Exact Words: The High King's blood oath. He swore never to die until he killed the Captain General. And since that's a title that passes from king to king, his spirit still lives on even though the man he was thinking of at the time long ago died of old age after killing him.
- Fourth Date Marriage: Bramble, Azalea, and Clover are all in love and engaged in a relatively short time after meeting their respective love interests.
- Gaslamp Fantasy: Eathesbury has both Victorian and Edwardian traits.
- Glamour: It's implied that Keeper is putting one on. When the girls find a portrait of the High King in the attic he looks old and corpse-like, which is what Keeper reverts to after his blood oath is fulfilled.
- The entire pavilion. When Keeper no longer has need of it, it returns to being a storage room.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Clover.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Azalea and Bramble for Lord Bradford and Lord Teddie, respectively.
- The King as well, considering it's noted that Azalea bares a striking resemblance to her mother.
- I Have Your Mother: Keeper reveals he's got the Queen's soul imprisoned, which he uses to blackmail Azalea into continuing her search for object binding him and to continue coming to the pavilion with her sisters. After he's free he reveals it was just an illusion.
- Human Sacrifice: Required for dark magic oaths.
- Invisibility Cloak: Lord Bradford inherited one, called a “wraith cloak.” As in the original fairytale, he uses it to secretly discover where the princesses are going at night.
- Love Epiphany: Azalea realizes she's in love with Lord Bradford, to much pain, since he's made it clear he has no interest in being King.
- Magically-Binding Contract: There's an old magic known as “swearing on silver” in which you swear on something silver, making your promise unbreakable. Azalea discovers it after her mother makes her swear on a silver handkerchief to protect her sisters. The girls use it to make sure they can never tell the King where they're dancing at night, which eventually comes back to bite them.
- Masquerade Ball: Keeper creates the illusion of a depraved one to mess with Azalea after she refuses to dance with him.
- Massive Numbered Siblings: As you'd expect from a story based on “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.”
- May-December Romance: Fairweller, although his age isn't stated, has got to be at least ten years older than Clover. Justified, as the setting has Victorian sensibilities.
- Missing Mom: What sets the entire plot in motion.
- Once Upon a Time: Fairytales in Eathesbury start with “in a certain country.”
- Promotion to Parent: Azalea, after the Queen dies.
- Rapid Aging: The Keeper/High King, when he's fulfilled his oath by killing King Harold. Within seconds he's nothing but dust.
- Royally Screwed Up: The ancient High King of D'Eathe, Keeper. He liked to abuse people, using magic to torture them and trap their souls after their bodies gave out. He was eventually overthrown and killed by the current royal family.
- Soul Jar: The entire castle is one of these, trapping Keeper within the very walls.
- Stutter Stop: Clover begins to stutter less after spending time with Fairweller.
- Tall, Dark and Handsome: The Keeper, at least at first.
- Theme Naming: All the girls are named after a plant and in alphabetical order of birth. Probably to make it easier for the reader to keep track of their ages in relation to each other.
- Twisted Christmas: The princesses wake up on Christmas day to discover their mother died in the night. Christmas the following year is no better.
- Unnamed Parent: The Queen's first name is never reveale.
- It might be Kathryn, which is noted as being Azalea's middle name. It's a pretty common tradition.
- Would Hurt a Child: Keeper.