I plan to cover good and bad books on this blog, but for a first post, I thought I’d start with a favorite. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier is a wonderful fairy tale retold–two fairy tales, in fact, artfully combining ”The Twelve Dancing Princesses” and ”The Frog Prince.”
I love retellings of classic fairy tales. The original classics tend to have…certain issues, like helpless heroines and not entirely coherent plot lines. But they usually have some spark that fascinates us–which I imagine is why they became classics to begin with. For “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” perhaps it’s the idea that you can escape your ordinary life every full moon to go dancing in a magic land (though the magic land is more or less threatening in different versions). For “The Frog Prince,” transformation stories, changing what is into something that’s better, have an eternal appeal.
So when you can take that essential spark and reshape a new story around it, one with a vivid and intricate plot, and with an appealing and capable heroine, then you’ve got something really good.
Wildwood Dancing is about Jena and her four sisters. They live in rural Transylvania, at Piscul Dracului, and for nine years they have been slipping away in the night to dance at the fairy court every full moon. Jena’s closest companion is Gogu, who’s quite sweet and charming, as well as being an enchanted frog. Jena and her sisters encounter conflict in both the human and magical world, from mysterious strangers appearing in the Fairy Court, and from an overbearing cousin who seeks to take over Piscul Dracului.
With vivid characters and exciting turns in the plot, this book stays engaging throughout. And, on the whole, it’s at least as sweet and charming as Gogu. I can’t say the biggest “twist” of the book surprised me, but that may be me–I’m usually good at guessing twists that I think are supposed to be unexpected. That’s not always a bad thing though–sometimes when a twist does surprise me, I end up feeling rather like a victim of “bait and switch.” This book, on the other hand, feels as though everything came out perfectly, gloriously right. I read the conclusion to the romance twice–and again just now. It’s that cute.
Author’s website: http://www.julietmarillier.com/
And by the way, that’s my copy of Wildwood Dancing up in the banner–towards the right.