Review: The Dark King and the Eternal Dance

The Dark King and the Eternal Dance is the second book I've read in A Villain's Ever After, though it is not the second book in the series. I received an ARC copy from Camille Peters, who wrote the other book I read from this series, The Beast and the Enchantress. Camille supposedly encouraged Alesha Adamson to become an author and contribute to A Villain's Ever After, which is a very sweet thing to do for a friend. We could all use a good friend who encourages us to share our passions with the world as a true modern princess would. This book is based on "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," which is one of my favorite fairy tales, but one of my least favorite to read adaptations of. Most authors prefer to turn the tale into a horrific nightmare about siblings who are forced to go out each night and perform tasks against their will instead of an escapist fantasy about twelve sheltered princesses who sneak out to enjoy some freedom from the confines of their castle. This version finds a happy medium of the two.

The Dark King and the Eternal Dance by Alesha Adamson

Most adaptations of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" focus on one or two of the sisters because twelve heroines are a lot to keep track of. This book wisely incorporates that method as well and begins with an emphasis on Faelynn, the eldest sister, before switching its attention to Rayna, who sees herself as a middle child despite being the third eldest. When their kingdom falls into a crisis, the princesses' father enlists in the aid of a powerful king named Drake, who agrees to save their land in exchange for Faelynn's hand in marriage. Faelynn's father must make a difficult decision that is similar to the video game Yes, Your Grace, in which a king must decide whether to trade his daughter's hand in marriage to save his kingdom. In this story, he decides on a compromise to allow the dark king to marry whichever one of his daughters is willing. However, Drake still has eyes only for Faelynn, which forces Rayna to take matters into her own hands to preserve the happiness of her family and her kingdom.

Drake is just as amusing as he is frustrating. He has an incredible amount of magic, but he also shows signs of autism as he is completely oblivious to the thoughts and feelings of those around him. When Faelynn tells him that she doesn't want to marry someone she barely knows, his solution is to force her and her sisters to attend a ball every week at midnight and uses magic to ensure that none of them can tell anyone about it. For months, he watches the sisters travel through the portal to the enchanted forest against their will and never notices the least bit of discomfort from any of them, least of all Faelynn, with whom he regularly dances. It isn't until Rayna gets in his face and tells him that Faelynn is already in love with someone else and that several of their sisters hate coming to the dance every week that he even suspects something is amiss, but even then, he doubts her words. For such a misunderstood villain, he comes off as quite dense and difficult to relate to at times.

Princess Rayna is the one who makes the book worth reading. She blends into the background for the first half of the story, but once she sneaks away while the rest of her sisters return home, things start to get interesting. Her brutal honesty and bravery are as charming as they are reckless. The second half of the book feels like a retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" as Rayna explores Drake's mysterious castle and enchanted kingdom while peeling away the layers of his past trauma that led to his reputation as the dark king. It is a delight to see Drake's attention gradually shift from Faelynn to Rayna as he becomes more grounded in reality. Not only does she help him see the truth behind her own family's situation, but she also helps him become a better leader for his own kingdom. Rayna is responsible for putting many elements of the original fairy tale into play, but she doesn't come off as too perfect because she also makes mistakes by sneaking away without considering the consequences, a trait that is too often abandoned in other adaptations of this classic fairy tale.

The Dark King and the Eternal Dance is a charming adaptation of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" with a sweet romantic twist. I thought it was the right choice to only focus on two of the princesses for a novel of this length. The initial spotlight on Faelynn gave Rayna an opportunity to rise up as an underdog during the second half of the book. I also liked how both princesses took the time to get to know their prospective love interests instead of simply marrying the man who solved the mystery of what happened to them at night like in the original fairy tale. It was also a nice touch that some of the younger princesses enjoyed staying up late and attending a magical ball as that seems more believable when so many other adaptations make it sound like a horrific nightmare. I would recommend this book to anyone who is tired of those darker adaptations of this beloved fairy tale and wants to read a more heartwarming version of it.


jar1234 said…
I always loved the story of the twelve dancing princesses and glad that this adaptation was good and you liked it.

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