Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day GeorgeReviewed by Keri
Violence: War has just ended. Princes from neighboring kingdoms seeking the hand of the princesses die by various ‘accidental’ deaths. The king of the underworld and his son are stabbed in the heart and die. The underworld’s sons are shot with pistols and rifles.
Sexual Content: Galen falls in love with Rose. He kisses her and holds her around the waist.
Adult Themes: The Queen has made a bargain with the king of the underworld so that she can have children and that her country will win the war. The princesses’ governess is accused of using and teaching witchcraft. It is promised that she will be hung. The princesses inherit their mother’s curse and must dance for the underworld king even though they are ill. The dancing gives the evil king needed vitality. The head gardener disowns his son when he falls in love with one of the princesses. The local religious leader greedily attempts to take over the palace. He interrogates the princesses and tries to scare them into confessing their use of witchcraft.
Galen is returning from a long war hoping to find some family within the city with whom he can live while he tries to find work. Along his journey, he meets a very old woman and shares some of his food and drink with her. To repay his kindness, she gives Galen two skeins of magical yarn and a disappearing cloak. Galen reluctantly takes the gifts and continues his journey to the city. When he reaches the city, he finds that his uncle is the head gardener at the palace. He is able to get work as a gardener as well. While working in the gardens, Galen has opportunities to meet the twelve princesses. He is most taken by the eldest, Rose. As time continues, rumors start to spread about the princesses and their strange habits. It was said that every three nights, their dancing slippers were worn through with holes. Guards were set at their bedroom doors and at their windows, but no one is able to figure out where the princesses go. When asked, the princesses refuse to say, even the youngest of them. Things take a turn for the worse when the oldest princess catches a terrible cold that becomes more serious over time. In spite of her serious illness, all of the princesses’ slippers are still worn. Their nightly escapades take their toll on the princesses’ health as each of them become ill and continue to wear their slippers out. The king becomes desperately worried for his daughters. He has lost his wife fairly recently and fears he may loose his daughters as well. He and his advisers come up with a plan to help the kingdom. They invite suitors from neighboring kingdoms to investigate the mystery. The one who can solve the mystery will be awarded the hand of a princess and the kingdom upon the king’s death. Prince after prince attempts to discover the twelve princesses’ secret. Each leaves without an answer and shortly thereafter dies in an accident. Neighboring kingdoms begin to fear that the princesses are responsible. As tension rises Galen asks if he can be of service. The desperate king accepts his offer and gives him three days to search for answers. Galen’s ingenuity and war experience allow him to discover their secret, a curse which requires the princesses to dance for the king of the underworld. Galen must summon all of his courage and resourcefulness to find a way to defeat evil and release his beloved princesses.
I really am a sucker for a good fairytale. I enjoyed this retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. It was a fast read and a great escape. The imagery the author created was lovely and the characters enchanting. And best of all they lived happily ever after.