I recently reread Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George (review), which turned out to be great preparation for reading the third book in the series, Princess of the Silver Woods. Thank you, Lark, for letting me know it existed!
The first book retells the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. There’s a second book, loosely retelling Cinderella, Princess of Glass (review). As the cover makes clear, the third one draws from Little Red Riding Hood—if very loosely! Fairy tale or not, this is definitely another good one for Once Upon a Time.
The third book focuses on Petunia, the youngest of the princesses, who starts the book traveling through the woods to visit an old friend from a neighboring royal court, the Grand Duchess Volenskaya. Along the way, she runs afoul of bandits wearing wolf masks–particularly their leader, Oliver, who abducts Petunia more or less by accident. She makes it eventually to the Grand Duchess’ and all should be well—except that she and her sisters have recently been plagued by particularly vivid nightmares, shadowy forms are lurking in the garden, and the Grand Duchess may have ties to their old enemy, the King Under Stone.
There are elements of Red Riding Hood here and there, but mostly this novel is a second confrontation with the King Under Stone and his macabre court. This felt like a much more closely connected sequel than the second book, which was primarily a separate adventure.
I really enjoyed seeing the twelve sisters again. George managed her deft juggling of many characters once again, and I didn’t feel troubled trying to sort out which princess was which. As in the first book, it’s always self-evidently obvious—Jonquil must be the hysterical one, because she’s always collapsing whenever we see her. Poppy (the lead of the second book) is obviously the bold one, because she’s always being bold. It was nice seeing Galen again (who really is lovely), and I liked that we got a little more of Heinrich, who just barely shows up in the first one. And I love that all the princesses’ have taken up knitting!
Petunia didn’t blow me away as a heroine, but she’s scrappy and likable, and I do enjoy when she starts ordering her demon-suitor around. Oliver is a bit of a Robin Hood figure, a displaced earl who turned to banditry to feed his people. Again, likable, if a little typical-hero-type.
The romance didn’t do much for me. There was nothing wrong with it—it just didn’t feel like it added much to the adventure. Petunia and Oliver have very few opportunities to interact, and while that was true for Rose and Galen too (Galen even makes a comparison at one point), somehow I felt the romance in the first one much more than I did here. And I was a bit annoyed with Oliver when both Petunia (a girl he had barely met) and his men (who he had lived with and fought with all his life) were in mortal peril, and he seemed to find these concerns equally troubling, with a possible slight edge to Petunia. Really?
But while the romance may have been a bit of a non-thing, the adventure was excellent. The King Under Stone and his brothers are thoroughly creepy, and the fact that they were defeated once already doesn’t at all seem to lessen the threat. George did a nice job of re-exploring familiar territory, while convincingly raising the stakes and the tension.
Overall, I’d say that Princess of the Midnight Ball was the stronger book, but this third one was good fun to read as well—and I enjoyed spending more time with the twelve princesses, and getting a little more of their story. The first one can stand alone, but I’d recommend the next two as well.
Author’s Site: http://jessicadaygeorge.com/
Buy it here: Princess of the Silver Woods