Updated on May 15, 2015
The Red-Hooded Dancing Princess of Sherwood Forest
I love retellings of classic fairytales. There was a time when I seriously considered retelling Little Red Riding Hood in a sci-fi setting. (Don’t worry, those days are gone.) It should come as no surprise, then, that I was intrigued by Jessica Day George’s Princess of the Silver Woods. A New York Times bestselling author, George joins the tradition of Shakespeare and Gail Carson Levine as she ties together elements of Little Red Riding Hood, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Robin Hood, and even old vampire legends. I won’t spoil the intrigue by pointing out all the parallels; you should do that part yourself.
Still, I must give a brief synopsis, one that will hardly do the story justice. Princess Petunia and her sisters are plagued by nightmares of parties in the Kingdom Under Stone, where they were forced to spend nights dancing until their shoes wore out. As the nightmares become more and more real, they realize that the gates must be sealed again. The honorable outlaw, Oliver, finds himself emotionally and morally entangled in Petunia’s fate, and decides to help–even if it means giving his life.
But, really, it’s so much more than that. There’s history and romance and intrigue, magic and secrets and shadows that act like men. There are hints that made my brain itch. It’s rich with references to the classics, and yet a tale entirely its own.
My only criticism–and it’s hardly that–is the ending. Maybe I’m “too old” for this book, or maybe I’ve been ruined by authors who like to destroy their readers’ (or viewers’) souls. But the ending was just so… happy. I wanted to be relieved. Really, I did. But I couldn’t believe it. Everyone lives (everyone important, anyways). Everyone lives, gets married, and has babies. I was denied the catharsis of tragedy. All the dramatic tension of the big battle–and it’s just supposed to vanish. Nothing breaks. It’s not a bad thing if you like and expect happy endings. It’s even a well-done happy ending, not overly sappy or anything.