Grade 8 Up–This light, entertaining tale combines the Arthurian legend of the Lady of the Lake, Grimms Twelve Dancing Princesses, and elements of romance novels. After Sir Ethans wife, Vivienne, disappears, he vows that no one shall leave him again. He builds an enormous manor that keeps his 12 daughters from the outside world. A crack in a wall is discovered by the youngest, Rowena, and provides a long-desired escape route. At the battle of Camlan, King Arthur is mortally wounded and his knight Bedivere swears that he will honor his sovereigns final request to return Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake (Vivienne). On his journey, he battles the evil Morgan le Fey to protect the sword and meets a monk who sends him in Rowenas direction. They meet in the woods as the young woman discovers her power of second sight when she finds Viviennes scrying bowl with a woman trapped in it, pleading for help. While searching for answers, Rowena and her sisters discover underground tunnels filled with music. Each night they go there to explore but the sorceress le Fey follows them and casts a spell to make sure they do not find their mother. What follows is fairly predictable and everyone lives happily ever after. Though not as substantive as Robin McKinleys Beauty (HarperCollins, 1978) or Donna Jo Napolis The Magic Circle (Dutton, 1993), this story will be enjoyed by readers who like romance novels and fairy-tale retellings.–Cheri Dobbs, Detroit Country Day Middle School, Beverly Hills, MI
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Gr. 7-10. Part of the publisher's growing line of romantic original paperbacks inspired by favorite tales, Weyn's retelling of "The 12 Dancing Princesses," about enchanted sisters who disappear nightly and return with tattered slippers, is more literal than Dia Calhoun's recent The Phoenix Dance (2005). Weyn does, however, introduce a major new element into the traditional story: she premises her version on Arthurian legend, casting the siblings as pawns in a dispute between sorceresses Vivienne and Morgan La Faye, and a Knight of the Round Table as the youngest sister's love interest. The author of the popular sf thriller The Bar Code Tattoo (2004) makes an admirable effort here to inject literary underpinnings into a mass-market genre novel, although the time spent massaging the imposed Arthurian connections might have been better used positing character-driven explanations for events currently governed by destiny and magic. Try this on your starry-eyed readers of romance as an entree to the more psychologically complex fairy-tale retellings of Donna Jo Napoli, Robin McKinley, or Shannon Hale. Jennifer Mattson
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