And here's what I thought: I grew up with the story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, so I had been looking forward to reading Heather Dixon's re-telling in this book. Beautifully written, this story expands upon the original, giving us an interesting, smart and sympathetic main character, a creepy and sinister villain, and some family drama, as well. And that's not a bad thing at all. In the original fairy tale, we don't really know much about the princesses, but here, we get to know all twelve (to some degree -- Azalea is the oldest and she's our main character). We learn her motivation behind her dancing, and how her relationship with her parents shapes her and her decisions. Dixon's words flow, easily pulling the reader in to the story and before you know it, you, yourself, are entwined. At least, that was my experience with this story.
What I really liked was how Dixon wove together the various dances, and steps, into the familial and political relationships in the story. There are bits of magic here, to be sure, but not so much that magic entirely drives the story. Magic is what gives Azalea and her sisters the ability to go through the passage to the enchanted forest, where they dance all night. However, it is true heart and determination that fuels Azalea's story. There are beautiful things in Azalea's world, but also things that have a deadly side to their beauty. When they first visit the silver pavilion and meet Keeper, it all seems so romantic, and you can see where it's so easy for all of them to get swept up in it all. Later, however, it's not so lovely as it seems --- and Dixon makes the pace so even in this book that it almost sneaks up on you.
Re-tellings can be tricky, and I had read some that were somewhat leaden, or too simple re-told. This story is one of the exceptions, however --- beautifully written, I think it's better than the original that I grew up with.
First sentences: An hour before Azalea's first ball began, she paced the ballroom floor, tracing her toes in a waltz. She had the opening dance with the King ... who danced like a brick.
Thoughts on the cover: Beautiful and completely suited to the story. This is a great example of eye-catching cover art.