#SPFBO 2018 | A Dance of Silver and Shadows – Melanie Cellier

About the Book

When Princess Liliana and her twin sister set sail for new lands, Lily hopes to find adventure and romance. But the people of Marin live under the shadow of a curse–one powerful enough to destroy entire kingdoms. To protect them all, Lily and eleven other princesses are forced to participate in a mysterious and secret tournament.

Lily spends her nights competing in a magical underground realm and her days unraveling the dangers of this new court. Although she needs the help of the Marinese prince, Lily knows she can’t let herself grow too close to him. There’s no time for romance when the duchy is about to fall to the encroaching darkness and the winner of the tournament faces a terrible fate.

But Lily and her twin have a secret advantage. And Lily grows increasingly determined to use their magical bond to defeat the tournament, save the princesses, and free Marin. Except she might have to sacrifice true love to do it.

In this reimagining of the classic fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, there’s a lot more at stake than worn out dancing slippers.

345 pages
Published on September 4, 2017
Author’s webpage
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This is an SPFBO 2018 book

I tend to enjoy fairytale retellings, but I’ll admit to you, dear reader, I struggled with this one.

The book is pretty straightforward. Twelve princesses have been called to Marin to undergo a tourney of sorts. The people of Marin live under an oppressive curse, and their hope is that this event can break the curse. The princesses compete in this tournament, at much risk to themselves. There’s a lot of tension, a lot of friendships formed, and some romance develops. There is a lot of finery, and castles and royal people doing regal things. Lots of magic, and hidden abilities that change the game, and intrigue. In short, there’s a lot here.

I appreciate a good young adult book. I like how the genre tends to push themes, and approach topics in a way that adults often don’t think about. A good young adult book will floor me just as profoundly as a good adult book.

My problem with this book was the tropes. Our protagonist Lily was prettier, smarter, funnier, more clever, friendlier, and more helpful than just about anyone else. What’s more, she was just gorgeous, but she doesn’t really realize how extreme her beauty is. The love interest fell a little flat to me, and she spent most of the book going over the minutiae of his deeds. Their romance was struck almost instantly, and while love at first sight can be sweet in certain situations, I think in this case it was just one more cliché marched out in a line of clichés.

Coupled with this, is the fact that there were huge logic gaps for me. Like, why didn’t the people of Marin revolt when they realized that huge balls were being thrown for these princesses every few days while they were living these hard lives? Why didn’t the princesses have guards with them? Why, if no one liked the idea of this tourney, didn’t anyone move a muscle to see if there was a way around this or at least a way for them to change the rules? And the secondary characters really fell flat for me, lacking any real development.

When I really sit back and think about it, I guess all my complaints could be summed up by me saying that I wish this book had just pushed the envelope a bit more. There is so much YA out there that challenges so many boundaries, and really blazes new trails and tells new stories, and everything else about this book was so professional, so well done, so above the bar, I just wanted… more.

I almost hesitate to say any of those complaints, because, in my estimation, the point of a book of this nature isn’t to be the most logical story ever told. The purpose is to enchant, to weave a story that seems surreal, but do it in a way that keeps the reader hooked despite the fact that it’s implausible. And you know what? This book does exactly that. It sets out to be a surreal, magical story, and it is exactly that. Mission accomplished. And, in a case like this, I’m not exactly sure my niggles over the details above are even something I should mention. Ultimately, I’m a reviewer and a judge in this contest, so I kind of felt like I had to.

This is the first book in the series, and in that respect, there was some really good foundational work being done here. Cellier laid out the groundwork for the fairytale retellings that will follow in this series, and some of this was very clever and sets the groundwork for an obviously lush series to follow.

The writing was wonderful, and the editing was likewise very well done. Despite all my complaints above, I did feel swept away in portions of this book. It was very enchanting, and easy to fall under the story’s spell, and the author’s careful crafting of it. The ending resolved things well, though I’d have liked to see more long-lasting friendships form between the princesses themselves. The romance hit a crescendo that fans of that sort of things will really love.

There was a lot of magical and political intrigue, some of which managed to surprise me. Things take turns that kept me interested, but more than that, I enjoyed how all of this intrigue twisted a fairytale so it made me look at it in a completely different light. That’s part of what I love about a really good fairytale retelling, it forces me to examine these time-tested stories, and examine how they would impact people if they happened a bit differently, which gives me some new insights into these stories.

So, yeah, I had big issues with this book, but it was balanced out by how much I enjoyed it as well. There’s a lot here that sort of undermined the great qualities of this book, but there’s also a lot to enjoy.

Ultimately, this book sets out to tell a magical story in an enchanting way, and it does exactly what it sets out to do. If I can poke holes in some aspects of this book, that’s okay. A Dance of Silver and Shadows has a mission, and it delivers.

 

3/5 stars

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