157. Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
Publication: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (February 1, 2011), originally published 2009, ebook, 302pp / ISBN 1599904551
Genre: YA Fantasy
Read: November 23-29, 2011
Source: Singapore Public Library
Summary from Amazon:
Rose1 is one of twelve princesses forced to dance through the night in an underground palace. The key to breaking the spell lies in magic knitting needles, an invisibility cloak, and-of course-true love. Inspired by “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” this novel is as captivating as it is fresh. Enchanted readers are sure to clamor for the new companion, Princess of Glass, also published.
Like Inside Out, Princess of the Midnight Ball was one of those books where I was expecting great things from an author who I know does awesome books– but unfortunately, I was disappointed. Like Maria V. Snyder, Jessica Day George has amazing characters in her books. She also has a knack for turning conventional fairy tale stories into something REALLY INCREDIBLE. For instance, last month I read JDG’s Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow. In that book she changed up the story enough to take it beyond merely “interesting.” She got rid of the annoying things, she made the main female character seriously wonderful (without going over the top), and she made the romance actually, y’know, romantic.
So I was really excited to read this one, which is based on the story The 12 Dancing Princesses. I don’t remember too much about the original tale, just the basic premise and the fabulous outfits the princess’ had in the illustrations of my childhood copy. I knew, too, that there were some skeezy things going on with the hero “winning” a princess and stuff, and so I was expecting JDG to do something cool and, like, change things up. But. She did not.
Things are slightly different, sure. The main romantic couple actually like each other and get to know one another before they get married, which is nice, and the thing with the faeries is way creepy. But I was expecting the princesses to actually…be active? To be honest, I was expecting them to be the ones to break out of their curse themselves, to not depend on a random dude to do it. The random dude is nice, sure, but I’m so used to JDG’s female characters being take-charge sort of people, and the princesses in this book spend most of it being sick, crying, lamenting their fate, and waiting for something to happen. It was kind of boring, actually.
The inactiveness of the princesses is really what bugs me the most about Princess of the Midnight Ball.23 Towards the end the eldest princess tries to do something, but it’s too little too late and just makes the rest of her time not doing anything look even worse.
There are other little things that threw me off this book, too, but this review is negative enough so I won’t go over them. Anyway, I think maybe if I hadn’t been expecting Princess of the Midnight Ball to be something it isn’t, I might have enjoyed reading it more. It’s not a terrible book, but it’s not my favorite Jessica Day George book, either.
It’s not horrible, but I wish it was better.
Presenting Lenore: “Galen and Rose are the only characters that we ever really get to know beyond one defining characteristic – the other 11 sisters run together in a haze of flower names and are treated more as a group than individuals. The romantic elements of the story were also a bit thin, even for someone like me who isn’t necessarily a fan of romance.”
Estella’s Revenge: “In the end, though, fascinating and respectable as it is, George’s approach to fairy tale telling leaves something to be desired. Because she follows so closely the strictures of the original tale, the book often feels trite and full of the usual tropes: the hero is helped because he is kind. He falls in love with the princess, and because of his love, bravery and wit, he is able to overcome all evil, thereby winning him the princess in the end. It’s almost as if the book is a broader sketch of the original tale; there’s more detail than the Grimms had, but not as much as there could be if George would have colored outside the lines.”
Books By Their Cover: “I thought the most interesting aspect to the characters were the names of the princesses. Ordinarily I hated the name Rose but combined with the other eleven flowers, Poppy, Hyacinth, Orchid, it created a vast sensational appeal. I love each of the sister’s traits—the dancer, the musician—and the careful tease and squabbles from sister to sister. It gave a much needed realistic approach to the family dynamics.”
- Who is not actually the main character, though her POV is in there. This summary at the author’s website is much better. ↩
- That, and the title. There’s 12 princesses of the midnight ball, actually! And ain’t none of them really the main character. ↩
- I also hate the cover, which makes it look like something completely different from what it is. ↩