When twelve princesses of Caelan refuse to dance as commanded by their father, he imprisons them in their pavilion and offers a challenge. Anyone who discovers the princesses’ secret will marry his pick among them and choose the fate of the others. Anyone who tries and fails will be stripped of land and title or life. But it’s the forgotten thirteenth princess who holds the key to the princesses’ rebellion. Ilani may be crippled, but she is by no means powerless.
Into this standoff comes Lord Kyril Seagrave and his companions from Andar. They hunt an exiled, dangerous prince and the truth about whether Caelan means to invade their home. Kyril is supposed to lead the expedition, but near as he can tell, everyone else is more qualified for the job, and he begins to wonder if Prince Ramsey sent him simply to get him out of the way for a while. When Kyril meets Ilani, he feels a pull toward the girl he can’t explain, and he vows to right the grave injustice done when she was crippled at seven years old. But to right the wrongs of the past, the princesses’ secret must be revealed, and before exiled Prince Rowan can turn the situation to Andar’s ruin.
Political intrigue and fairytales might seem like an odd pairing, but in the Andari Chronicles, it really works. I love the way Davidson takes familiar stories and jazzes them up with new elements. I’m less familiar with the story of the “Twelve Dancing Princesses” by the Brothers Grimm than I am with the other two stories in the Andari Chronicles. This version still centers around a contest established by a king to learn the secret of his daughters, but this time instead of learning why the girls’ dance slippers are worn through each morning, the contestant must learn why the girls have refused to dance for their father. And, instead of three days and nights, each hopeful contestant has only one night to learn the secret.
Kyril plays a role in the first book in the series, Traitor’s Masque, as Prince Ramsey’s best friend and confidante. Since Ramsey’s marriage to Trystan, Kyril feels displaced and useless. The trip to Caelan at first seems like an opportunity to prove his true worth to the court. I liked Kyril a lot in Traitor’s Masque, and his motives made perfect sense to me throughout Pirouette. He and another team member, Brenna, spar frequently over an old grudge Brenna carries but refuses to name openly. The friction between those two definitely kept tension in the tale. Brenna herself is a pretty significant character, too.
Overall I enjoyed this story. I think I liked the first two books in the series a little bit better than this one. I love the characters, but there’s one moment in the climax where I felt like Kyril gets kind of sidelined and doesn’t really contribute. After all of his struggles over feeling useless and valueless, I felt a little sad for him that he kind of had to sit back and wait while others did some key things. I would have liked to see him in a more active role during that big moment.
At the same time, I liked that the climax had a less traditional resolution. I won’t spoil what happened, but it was cleverly done, and definitely gave a nod to girl power and solidarity, which I have to appreciate.
I’d still recommend the whole series to readers who like fairytale retellings. You can read my reviews of the first book, Traiter’s Masque, and the second book, Goldheart, too.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used infrequently.
Kyril spends the sea voyage sick and miserable. There are several descriptions saying he smells horrible and has vomit-stained clothes, etc.
Brenna hassles Kyril about his reputation as a shameless flirt. Kyril later explains the reasons for his behavior. Brief kissing between a man and woman.
Some Caelani bear an ability to perform magic. Their gifts are usually limited to one thing, like the ability to control water or fire. Anyone who can perform magic is made a slave and forced to wear silver.
Ilani bears multiple scars and damage to her leg after a man ordered her brutally maimed as a child. She does not recount her torture vividly, but her leg still pains her and she must walk with a cane. Her mother and brother were ordered to be executed after she was discovered to have magical abilities.
Some Caelani want to see the slaves freed and magic embraced by the people. Others fear the outcome of magic users without restraint. A girl uses her magic to kill a man.
A wild animal attacks and severely mauls a man. The attack isn’t described, but his injuries are briefly related later.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.