Author: Kenley Davidson
Series: Andari Chronicles #3
Genre: Fairy Tale Retelling
Summary (from Goodreads)
In this retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” a princess and a spy must find a way to work together if they are to prevent their kingdoms from falling into war…
Lord Kyril Seagrave is handsome, popular and growing bored with his shallow existence at court. In search of adventure, he signs on for a clandestine mission into the heart of the Caelani Empire, a largely unknown land to the east which may also be the greatest threat to Andar’s future.
Armed only with his natural charm and a set of ill-matched companions, Kyril enters Caelan under the guise of a raffish bodyguard and soon realizes he is far beyond his depth. Each of his companions seems to have their own hidden agenda, leaving Kyril to navigate the complexities of an unfamiliar court alone.
Princess Ilani cannot remember a time when she was not invisible. Her twelve sisters dance for the Caelani court, while she remains hidden from view. But hidden does not mean blind, and Ilani knows too many secrets to be ignored forever. When it is time for her father to name an heir, all of those secrets will come back to haunt her, along with a devilishly charming foreigner who seems to know far more than he should.
Ilani finds herself fighting not only for the future of her land, but for her very life and the lives of her sisters. Even if she survives her father’s search for an heir, her secrets may not, and Caelan itself may never be the same.
The Twelve Dancing Princesses is not a fairy tale I’m familiar with, unlike Cinderella and Rumplestiltskin, which were the subjects of Davidson’s previous two books. I won’t say this impaired my enjoyment any, but it was a different experience to read the story fresh, without the added layer of trying to figure out who was who, and how the beats of the fairytale would figure in to the retelling.
Pirouette is a more ambitious tale than its predecessors. Where Traitor’s Masque was interwoven with politics, it was smaller scale, and the heart of the story was in the relationship between the two main characters. In Pirouette, Kyril and Ilani barely get any screen time together – to the point that I began to wonder if they were going to be a romantic pairing at all. There are bigger things going on than one blossoming love affair, so the romance does take a bit of a back seat.
The main narrative is about the spy mission of Kyril’s to Caelan to work out what Prince Rowan is up to – a familiar enemy if you’ve read the previous books – and the lies and betrayals that have kept the leader of the Caelani, Ilani’s father, in power. The book also introduces the concept of magic – thus far left out of the retellings. The complex relationships between people of the Caelani court, and the actions they take leave you guessing what’s actually going on for quite a long time, and there are some shocking revelations along the way.
Which all adds up to a great story, but for me, I missed the slow burn of the relationship developing between the two central characters that the first two books delivered. Pirouette is a different reading experience – and by no means a bad one. An exciting tale of politics and betrayal, just not quite as romantic.