Review of Entwined by Heather Dixon
Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.
The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.
Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.
But there is a cost.
The Keeper likes to keep things.
Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.
This book carries lots of promises: fighting against her entrapment, struggling for freedom. And, yet, I had several problems.
First, I have no idea how old Azalea is. Maybe this isn't the most important complaint, but the expectations a reader has about a character's maturity changes greatly whether the character is 15 or 18. There's a lot of life experience that can be packed into those few years, and so not to give her a specified age--only to state that she's "of age", which isn't defined until well into the story--made me think her about 18 and therefore REALLY immature for her age. Come to find out through some general mental figuring, she probably turned 16 through the course of the story. However, as the oldest of 12, she'd probably still be more mature than she came off.
Second, until about 300 pages into the 470+ page tome, Azalea doesn't WANT anything. She's simply reacting, moving and swaying the current but not trying to GO anywhere. She struggles against her confinement, but she doesn't take any major steps to do much about it. Actually, no, I take that back. The poor girl is confined in mourning and all she wants to do is dance. But what's her goal? Where's she going? Does she want to teach dance at the local girls school? Does she want to do something other than have temporary bits of fun? Not that I can tell. 300 pages in, she finally has a goal, and she starts to work toward an end game, but in the first 60% of the book, her struggle is aimless and meandering. And therefore left me wondering why I was reading it.
Lastly, characterization was lacking. Azalea felt somewhat flat to me, even overshadowed by her next two sisters' personalities. Perhaps it was due to Azalea's lack of goal? I'm not sure. It didn't help that there were 12 sisters all between the ages of 16 and newborn (and, might I say, OW!), their mother, their father, the Prime Minister, Keeper, the love interest, and several other men throughout the story. Sisters melded into one another in my brain, as did the male suitors over time. I can't figure out why she needed 12 sisters, because it made several points in the plot confusing, unless it was to explain the mother's illness (this is not a spoiler; it's in the first chapter). I think, had more attention been focused on who Azalea was and what she wanted instead of trying to juggle dozens and dozens of characters, this would have been a richer read.
With all this complaining, I must say that Heather Dixon creates a beautiful world with well described imagery that sucks the reader in. While I wondered several times why things were happening and what I wanted to get from this read, some of the beautiful images captured my imagination. I also enjoyed the slow development of Azalea's romantic interest, though there were times early on when this got lost because he would disappear (through understandable circumstances within the story) for close to a hundred pages at a time. In fact, her romantic interest was probably my favorite character of all. Maybe he should have his own book :)
Recommendation: Light, summer read, but if you've got something else you'd rather read, stick to your instincts.
Have you read Entwined? What did you think?