Entwined by Heather Dixon

Another version of The Dancing Princesses, Entwined is a lovely mix of enchantment and humor.  Azalea, the oldest of the twelve princesses makes a promise to her mother that she will take care of her sisters.  She swears this on her dying mother’s beloved handkerchief that is embroidered with silver thread.  Without realizing that magic in the silver compels her to keep her vow, Azalea does her best.  She puts off suitors, stands up to their father and finds a secret passage in the palace leading to a beautiful pavilion where the girls can dance away their sorrows.  What Azalea doesn’t know is that by trying to alleviate their pain from losing their mother she is leading them into a dangerous trap.  The silver laced world beneath the palace where they dance is home to handsome Keeper. As the nights pass Azalea begins to fear Keeper, and with good reason.  He is far more powerful and sinister than she anticipated. It will take all of Azalea’s strength as well as help from the the King and the girls’ suitors to save them and the entire kingdom.

The romance in the story is sweet and done with a light touch, things don’t heat up beyond a few kisses.  Love is a major part of the story, but familial love is given just as important (if not more important) a role as romantic love.  The girls’ aren’t solely responsible for their own salvation, but nor are they purely decorative and in need of saving. In fact, some of the male characters are decidedly less in charge than the girls.  An opportunity for a modern ending is shunned though as Azalea avoids a non-traditional proposal.

The tension and danger are never terribly scary either, so I would say this would be fine for teens and tweens.  Middle grade students who feel up to the vocabulary and can comprehend the text should not encounter anything too old for their age.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – A baby is born.  Quite a few characters kiss or imagine what it is like to be kissed. Kissing is described as like dancing, it is written in a very non-provocative way.  There is hand-holding.  There’s a reasonable amount of touching during dances.  Azalea will have to marry. Corsets and underthings are mentioned.
Profanity – “Who the devil are you?”, “dash it all,”
Death, Violence and Gore –  The Queen is ill and dies.  Magical curtains strangle servants.  A magic tea service bites fingers.  The High King tortured people, hacked them to pieces, stole their souls.  He also spent a lot of time plotting murders, drank a vial of his beloved’s blood, swore to kill the man who overthrew him and dismembered a princess.  There is repeated slapping across the face.  A man has a neck wound and the blood seeps through the bandage. Father’s hand is cut on a bayonet.  There’s a mention of ghosts. The king slams a man against a wall.  Azalea’s wrists are bruised from being grabbed.  A fan slices her arm. There are some fist fights, pistol shots and scratching. The most scary scene is where a magical version of Mother appears, once with her mouth sewn shut and once where her skin appears to melt off. After magic wears off, a person appears to have a skeleton face.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Wine is offered.
Frightening or Intense Things –  The book is not incredibly scary although there are some tense parts.  Azalea also has a tendency to go off in freezing cold storms and then fall very ill.

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