My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’m a sucker for fairy tale retellings, I’ll admit here. As a dance-obsessed kid, I always liked the story of the dancing princesses, worn-out slippers and all. I also really liked the Faerie Tale Theatre version, and strangely I’m more familiar with that than any written version, so I was quite pleased to see a lot of the same elements in George’s retelling. I recently read Wildwood Dancing, another Dancing Princesses retelling that took the story in a very different direction. This one is more satisfying to my childhood self, with enough fleshing out to make it work as a novel.
Unlike the Faerie Tale Theatre version, this one includes darker elements that explain why the princesses dance nightly. This backstory gives the book the perfect amount of tensio, making me wonder why the princesses in other versions are so willing to dance quite so much – what about sleep? The perspective shifts from Galen, a young soldier returning from war, to Rose, the eldest princess. There were a few structural things that I admired in the plotting, particularly the way the reader never follows the princesses to their nightly dancing until Galen does, even though we know what it happening all along.
As a side note, I loved that Galen was a knitter, pulling out wool and needles in any spare moment. For a former solider, it’s a practical skill, plus it makes sense that he’s thrifty and unwilling to waste time sitting around. He’s a wonderfully likable character, and the story has a nice element of romance while still being friendly and appropriate for younger readers. I’d definitely recommend this to fans of Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast, Ella Enchanted, and the like.