Classic Review: Wildwood Dancing

I reviewed some really good books when I first started this blog.  But most of you weren’t here yet!  Since I’m coming up on a busy month right now, I thought it was a good time to share again some of those early reviews.  Most of you probably haven’t read them before anyway…

Today, here’s the very first review I posted.  This book is largely responsible for my interest in “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” fairy tale, as it’s the one that got me started.  One person who read this review was Juliet Marillier, the author.  I wrote her an email and she sent me a very nice, personalized reply.  I knew she was awesome!


I plan to cover good and bad books on this blog, but for a first post, I thought I’d start with a favorite.  Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier is a wonderful fairy tale retold–two fairy tales, in fact, artfully combining “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” and “The Frog Prince.”

I love retellings of classic fairy tales.  The original classics tend to have…certain issues, like helpless heroines and not entirely coherent plot lines.  But they usually have some spark that fascinates us–which I imagine is why they became classics to begin with.  For “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” perhaps it’s the idea that you can escape your ordinary life every full moon to go dancing in a magic land (though the magic land is more or less threatening in different versions).  For “The Frog Prince,” transformation stories, changing what is into something that’s better, have an eternal appeal.

So when you can take that essential spark and reshape a new story around it, one with a vivid and intricate plot, and with an appealing and capable heroine, then you’ve got something really good.

Wildwood Dancing is about Jena and her four sisters.  They live in rural Transylvania, at Piscul Dracului, and for nine years they have been slipping away in the night to dance at the fairy court every full moon.  Jena’s closest companion is Gogu, who’s quite sweet and charming, as well as being an enchanted frog.  Jena and her sisters encounter conflict in both the human and magical world, from mysterious strangers appearing in the Fairy Court, and from an overbearing cousin who seeks to take over Piscul Dracului.

With vivid characters and exciting turns in the plot, this book stays engaging throughout.  And, on the whole, it’s at least as sweet and charming as Gogu.  I can’t say the biggest “twist” of the book surprised me, but that may be me–I’m usually good at guessing twists that I think are supposed to be unexpected.  That’s not always a bad thing though–sometimes when a twist does surprise me, I end up feeling rather like a victim of “bait and switch.”  This book, on the other hand, feels as though everything came out perfectly, gloriously right.  I read the conclusion to the romance twice–and again just now.  It’s that cute.  🙂

Author’s website:

4 thoughts on “Classic Review: Wildwood Dancing

  1. This is a book I’ve been meaning to pick up for years, entirely because of the Kinuko Y. Craft cover for it. My daughter and I have the puzzle version of it and had a ball putting it together one Christmas. I too love a good fairy tale retelling and when they are packaged this beautifully and are good stories too then where can one go wrong?

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