I must admit that I am not familiar with the fable, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, which this novel is a reimagining of, and I was a little hesitant to buy the book—but the cover was so pretty—and the blurb inside the jacket cover so intriguing.
It was money well spent.
Long ago, in a kingdom far away, there lived a wizard so powerful and so evil that none of the good wizards were able to subdue him or put him to death. Finally, through a combined effort, the good wizards cast him and his followers forevermore to a land where the sun didn’t ever shine—and he became known as the King Under Stone.
The story begins with a prologue—Queen Maude has finalized her second bargain with the Under King—she will dance for him 12 years if he will grant that her husband’s kingdom reigns victorious in their current war.
In chapter one, we meet Galan, a young lad of nineteen who has spent the better part of his life at war. His father was a soldier and his mother an army laundress. After they died, he spent the remainder of the war as a soldier himself.
Now, after many long years, the war is finally over and Galen is going to the city of Bruch hoping that his aunt and uncle will take him in and help him find employment. Along the way, he meets a hungry old crone and shares his last tidbits of food with her. In return she gives him an invisibility cloak, and Galen knows the woman is completely off her rocker.
It’s at his new job as an under-gardener for the king of Westfalin, that Galen meets Rose—she is beautiful and he is immediately smitten with her—and becomes involved in a mystery so dark and dangerous that the princes who try to solve the puzzle all die.
As in most fables, there are hidden messages, and it’s the same in this story. Galen, who has seen more than his share of suffering in the world has an amazingly pure heart. In the end, he is blessed for his righteous choices.
Queen Maude, who decided to strike a deal with an evil wizard, reaps the fruit of that decision—as everyone who strikes a deal with the devil would—because King Under Stone is tricky and has a hidden agenda. As the story begins, Queen Maude has already danced herself to death.
The twelve dancing princesses have to pay for their mother’s mistake, which is what the evil king wanted all along since he has twelve half-mortal sons.
The princesses are required to dance every night with the Under-princes from midnight to dawn even when they’re sick, and since they’re under a spell, they cannot tell anyone of their plight. As with all of us in this life—they need a savior—someone who will save them from the life threatening consequences of their mother’s pact, because they certainly cannot save themselves from the evil that has befallen them.
This is a very sweet fable of the power of love, and of good triumphing over evil. Jessica Day George has a writing style that’s welcoming and easy to read, and now I’m interested in reading her other books.