DWG reads Entwined, part 2

2 May

This post is a full week later than I intended it to be! Life is like that, sometimes. But to make up for it I have some links for you! in addition to my further thoughts about Entwined.

Heather Dixon, the author of Entwined, is also an artist! And her art is awesome! You can see it on her blog, Story Monster, including this illustration for Entwined:

She also created three coloring pages featuring Princesses Azalea, Bramble, and Clover, which you can find here!

And, AND, she made Princess Azalea paper dolls that you can download! Paper dolls, guys! In case you didn’t know, I really really love paper dolls.

She even made Howl’s Moving Castle art. With a moving castle. I mean. Awesome.

And getting back to the subject of this month’s book discussion of Entwined, here is a post over at the Greenwillow Books blog in which Heather Dixon talks about her book! She touches on some of the elements of Entwined that are different from the familiar version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, such as the princesses being in mourning, and the royal household being poor.

My first post about Entwined only touched briefly on a few of the things about the book that I liked, and didn’t dig into the book itself very much, but now I’ve finished re-reading Entwined (and read the first four chapters a third time, because I was reading them out loud to my friend while we drove to the Renaissance faire. Because we know how to have fun)and a few of you have commented on the discussion with your own thoughts. By the way, thank you for participating! It makes me happy, you have no idea. And your comments have been interesting and great and I will totally be referencing them in this post as I discuss the second half of the book.

Before I get going, though, some housekeeping: I know of several people who are still waiting to get their hands on Entwined, or who haven’t quite finished it yet, so I’m going to extend discussion until May 15th. In the meantime I’ll open up the vote for the next discussion book, so give everyone more time to find and read it before the next round of discussion begins in May. If you have any recommendations for books that you’d like to discuss, please mention them in the comments!

And now, Charis has more thoughts about Entwined: Note — this post contains spoilers for the second half of the book!

In my last post I didn’t even mention someone with a huge presence in the book, someone at the very center of the plot, and that of course is the mysterious and sinister Keeper. As Sharon pointed out in her comments (one of the reasons it’s awesome to be friends with Sharon is that she’s brilliant, and it’s easy to reflect the glow of intelligence—all you have to do is wait for Sharon to say something and then nod sagely, saying ‘Yes, of course, I agree completely’), in some ways Keeper is the ‘anti-Edward Cullen’, a physically attractive, seductive, mysterious figure with a tendency to be controlling, possessive, and manipulative, but in this case instead of being a romantic figure Keeper is dangerous and insane. Which I think is how things should be. It’s not a secret that I’m not a fan of Twilight, and definitely not a fan of the type of romantic relationship it portrays (and absolutely not a fan of the prevalence of that kind of relationship in YA lit), so I was glad to see a book flouting that particular trope.

On the subject of tropes, another romantic trope that I really do not enjoy is the love triangle. I really dislike love triangles. Show me a book with a love triangle at the center of the plot and I will show you how many other things I have to read instead, unless you give me a really compelling reason to do otherwise (like The Hunger Games). When Dixon introduced two potential love interests—the mysterious Keeper and the adorable Lord Bradford—I winced and braced myself for the inevitable triangle…and it never happened. Dixon totally subverted that trope instead, which I really liked. Even though Keeper seemed at first to be a possible romantic interest for Azalea (or one of her sisters, I suppose) she was savvy enough to pay attention to the warning bells that Keeper’s behavior set off and back away from his influence as much as possible. Score for Princess Azalea.

Another common theme in romantic stories is one or both of the parties choosing their beloved object over their family, or neglecting their family in favor of the beloved object (or B.O. ;), and I thought it was lovely to see a book in which the romantic relationship stayed secondary to the family relationships—sure, Azalea is all giddy over Bradford (who can blame her he sounds so adorable), but her focus continues to remain on her family.

Anna and Sharon both mentioned being confused that Lord Bradford becomes Mr. Bradford, which made me go ‘eh? Did that happen? I don’t remember noticing’, so I watched for it while I was re-reading and it switches because he asks Azalea to call him Mr. Bradford instead of Lord Bradford, indicating that they’re on slightly more familiar terms, although when you’re zipping through a book it’s easy not to absorb. Much more confusing to me, when I stopped to think about it during my re-read, was the age gap between Prime-Minister Fairweller and Princess Clover. I mean, he’s a young Prime Minister, but surely we can assume he’s at least 25. And Clover turns 15 in the course of the book. I don’t know how your eyebrows responded, but when I worked this out mine shot straight up into my hairline. I don’t object to large age gaps in couples who are older—the difference between 25 and 35 seems pretty negligible to me, but the difference between 15 and 25 is enormous and a little awkward.

One of my friends commented in her Goodreads review of Entwined that while she enjoyed it she was troubled by the amount of patriarchal thinking that kind of permeates the setting, and I thought it was an interesting observation and I wanted to bring it up. She was particularly troubled by the fact that Azalea was unwilling to propose to Lord Bradford, despite the fact that she outranked him, and in that I agree with her. I don’t love Azalea’s unwillingness to do the proposing because, while I can understand her apparent lack of interest in politics because her focus is extremely narrow and politics don’t really fit into the scope of the story being told, I do find it hard to believe that she would shy away from a royal responsibility like observing the rules of her status. It just seems rather silly and unnecessary. It can kind of be justified because Azalea doesn’t find it romantic to do the proposing, but that didn’t come across perfectly in my opinion.

Overall I thought that while yes, there’s definitely a strong thread of patriarchy in the book, it isn’t arbitrary and it’s appropriate to the time period that the book is loosely based on, and it is offset by female characters being strong and active and independent (although without completely rebelling against the rules of society. The sisters rebel by dancing, but not out of a desire to overthrow the system, rather as a coping mechanism for their grief).  In many ways Entwined is a very domestic story—it’s limited to Azalea’s view point, and she’s both confined from the world because of mourning, and her focus is on the more immediate problems of her family. And this doesn’t bother me—not every book needs to be a statement about women overthrowing the patriarchy, and if Dixon had tried to cover that angle I think she would have been writing a very different book, and some of the things that I like most about Entwined might have been sacrificed to make room for the new plot. But at the same time that Dixon lets the patriarchal system stand she also shows how strong women can be—Azalea may not be interested in challenging the political system, but she’s not afraid to throw punches to protect her family.

So I feel that really the issue is balanced, except for this one scene striking an odd note.

What do you think, readers? Are you satisfied with the book as it is, or would you have been more satisfied by the princesses being shown to be more active politically in some way? Do you think that Entwined subverted tropes, or that it played into them?

…..Are you busy playing with your new paper dolls? Yeah, I thought so ;)

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3 Responses to “DWG reads Entwined, part 2”

  1. pensyf May 3, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    “I don’t love Azalea’s unwillingness to do the proposing because, while I can understand her apparent lack of interest in politics because her focus is extremely narrow and politics don’t really fit into the scope of the story being told, I do find it hard to believe that she would shy away from a royal responsibility like observing the rules of her status.”

    Hear hear! For once I’d like to read the book where the princess isn’t rebelling against her status or her future reign but rather KICKS ASS at bureaucracy, dealing with court politics, loves diplomacy, etc. etc. And maybe the people around her don’t take her seriously because she’s a woman. Or something. Just let’s get away from the fantasy cliche about The Reluctant Future-Ruler Who Runs Away.

    • agreyeyedgirl May 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

      You know, ever since you mentioned this (um, two and a half weeks ago…I am behind on life!) I’ve been thinking about which books do have a heroine/princess who is more adept at working within the system than, y’know, rebelling against it–I think that Court Duel is a good example (although it does come after a book of anti-government rebelling in Crown Duel), and A Girl of Fire and Thorns is another one, and I think its sequel will have even more.
      But I have to admit, books where the plot is largely motivated by politics are just not my favorite. I don’t enjoy politics, they frustrate and exhaust me! The fact that I know how important they are makes the fact that I find them confusing and hard to understand even more tiring and upsetting. I kind of like escaping to worlds where it’s actually possible to cut through the intrigue and get away from it and still save the world :P

  2. evangelinearcher May 7, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    I finished the book this morning and I have to say that I loved it!

    The only detail that consistently threw me out of the story was how very young Lily is – I kept thinking, “So she’s 6 months old, now…” and I disliked that they referred to the 12 Dancing Princesses when the 12th one wasn’t even crawling/walking/what-have-you. Only 11 of them danced! I think that if Lily had been even a year old when their mother died this wouldn’t have bothered me so much as she would have been walking/learning to dance during their year of mourning. Also, she slept in the room with them from practically the very beginning and I kept thinking – shouldn’t there be a wetnurse to feed the baby? Where is she? How does she not witness the princesses going down to dance?

    I did actually like that Lord/Captain/Mr. Bradford – which, does he ever get a first name? – mistakes her for Bramble, because he’s talked about how he wouldn’t be a good king and then she thinks that if he knew who she was he wouldn’t really want HER because then he’d have to be the king. However, it should have been generally known that only one of the Princesses was of age at the time of the yuletide ball when they met and that she therefore *had* to be Princess Azalea (yet another problem which could have been solved by making everyone a year older – keeping the plot tension in tact!).

    I think both the Where-is-the-baby thing and the Lord-Bradford-is-suddenly-Mr. were both very much in my mind when I read it, though, because Charis & I talked about it a bit on the way to Renfest and the problem-of-Lily bothered me very much in the book but the Lord-to-Mr. thing didn’t bother me at all because I was looking out for it and it seemed very sweet in the way it played out. Also, I love how they address each other as Princess and Captain at the very end.

    I’m not sure how i feel about Azalea being reluctant to propose to him – it seems like if her Mother had still been around she would have coached Azalea, told her about having to propose well before the time ever came, and then the King just kind of sprang it on her right before pushing her into the room with Bradford and she was kind of thrown off by the whole thing. I think if she’d had a bit of proper warning that she would absolutely have risen to the occasion and proposed to him. In the end, though, neither of them actually said much in the way of *actually* proposing…

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