Review: A Dance of Silver and Shadow

Now that I've recovered from the chaotically delightful Entwined Tales Launch Party, it's time to get back to reviewing Melanie Cellier's booksA Dance of Silver and Shadow: A Retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses is the first book in the Beyond The Four Kingdoms series. It takes place a few years after the events of The Four Kingdoms and is told from the perspective of Lily, one of the twins that Alyssa took care of in The Princess Companion. It turns out that Lily and her sister Sophie secretly have a telepathic link with each other that they received from a fairy godmother at birth that allows them to talk to each other in their minds no matter how far apart they are. Though this sort of bond may seem intrusive to some, the two princess sisters love each other dearly, and their secret superpower only brings them closer together.


"The Twelve Dancing Princesses" was one of my favorite fairy tales when I was a child. I've seen several adaptations of it, but none quite like this. The novel Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George is the closest adaptation to A Dance of SIlver and Shadow that I've read because it turned the secret nightly dancing into a curse that the princesses are unable to escape from. In this version, however, the twelve princesses are not all related by blood. In fact, many of them are from other fairy tales, foreshadowing future books that Melanie will be releasing in the series. There were some subtle references to "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "The Little Mermaid," and "The Snow Queen" scattered throughout this book. The other major difference from any other adaptation is that the "dancing" is more of a metaphor for performing unknown tasks to satisfy an unseen entity. Yes, there were formal balls with dancing as well, but the iconic underground room from the fairy tale does not contain twelve princes who wanted to show the princesses a good time. Instead, it contains a series of exhausting challenges that they are forced to do, many of which appear to be straight out of a horror movie.

If The Hunger Games had been a fairy tale, I assume it would be similar to this. Twelve princesses from different lands are brought together to participate in an age-old tourney where they would compete in various challenges to win the hand of a prince for a marriage that none of them particularly want. The princesses could not try to intentionally lose the challenges because the curse would cause someone close to them to die if they do. Though they were never pitted against each other in a malicious way, the physical challenges took a huge toll on the group of delicate princesses, resulting in critical injuries for many of them. It wasn't long before I felt as though I was reading something from Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events because I knew bad things were going to keep happening, but I couldn't stop reading because I cared too much about the characters.

The book got a little difficult to handle toward the end because it was so hard seeing such vulnerable girls placed in such dangerous circumstances. Of course, that was also the point. Fortunately, Lily and Sophie are determined to protect the other girls. Their telepathic link helps with that a lot because it allows them to communicate with each other from different areas and check on the other princesses. The protective brothers of many of the princesses are extremely worried about them when they see their injured states, but they remain clueless to the events of the tourney itself for most of the book because the curse prevents anyone from talking about it. The challenges keep the story exciting, but I didn't find it as thrilling as The Princess Fugitive because I became too uncomfortable worrying about the younger and injured princesses for most of the book.

A Dance of Silver and Shadow is a bold take on a classic tale, transforming it from a pleasant fantasy about twelve sisters who secretly live out their innermost desires each night to a horror story about a group of strangers forced to participate in a challenge they don't want to do to win a prince they don't want to marry. Though I found the concept intriguing at first, it quickly became unsettling after the novelty wore off. I think I would have enjoyed it more if they were competing to be matched with twelve princes instead of one, but of course, that would defeat the purpose of using all of the girls in the tourney as the main characters of the future books in the Beyond the Four Kingdoms series.

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