Wildwood Dancing by Kristen Cashore
The Skinny: When their father leaves for the winter due to illness, Jena and her sisters are set to look after themselves, their home, and their family’s business. But after the death of their uncle, their cousin Cezar begins to reign in on their freedom, threatening their greatest secret: their secret trips into the Other Kingdom. Every Full Moon Jena and her sisters are able to visit the Other Kingdom, where they dance the night away with the various enchanted creatures who live there. During one such trip, Tatiana, the eldest of the sisters, falls in love with a mysterious dark stranger, an act that is forbidden. As Tati’s health begins to diminish and Cezar becomes more suspicious of the sisters and threatens the Wildwood, Jena finds that she is being tested and, with the help of her constant companion Gogu – a small green frog – must save both her world and that of the Other Kingdom (boy, was that a run-on sentence or what?!).
BFF?: I sort of flip-flopped between liking Jena and disliking her. I thought it was great that she took on the responsibility of taking care of her family and their business. She really pulled through and stepped up, especially in times of trouble. But whenever she was faced with her cousin’s d-baggery all she did was stomp her foot and say “not fair!” (okay, she didn’t ACTUALLY do this, but that’s a good way of putting it) I wanted her to explode at her cousin, to assert her authority, to for once put him in his place, and all she did was sulk after arguing and losing.
Listenability: I started this one out and the narrator’s voice got on my nerves soooo bad that I decided to return it to the library. But then I read a review of it and thought I’d give it another chance. SO glad that I did! Although the narrator’s voice continued to get on my nerves, for the most part it was okay. Her voice became lilting over the prettier parts of the book, kind of like a fairy tale lullaby. Which, looking back, seemed pretty perfect.
Crush Level: 6s all around
Although I KNOW he wasn’t supposed to be a love interest of any kind, for the first part of the book I really liked Cezar and kind of hoped his relationship with Jena was one of those hate first, love later relationships. I really was rooting for him at first… but then he kept on being a d-bag and sadly, I lost hope and started disliking him more and more. My crush then moved on to another character in the book who, for spoiler-free purposes will not be named. I loved that this person showed up and that it was kind of a total surprise! He was also kind of all the good things I wanted out of Cezar with still some of the sternness that Cezar had.
Fairy Tale Retelling
The Twelve Dancing Princesses is one of my favorite fairy tales, mostly because they went dancing every night! But this combines both this tale AND The Frog Prince in a very clever way. Love it!
Dragutsa, the Witch
Out of all the characters in this book, Dragutsa was probably my favorite. I love how she was described, how she was sort of sneaky and full of trickery… and I kept picturing her as Sir Didymus from Labyrinth!
Commencement Speech: As I mentioned above, I nearly gave up on this book. It really wasn’t catching my attention and just didn’t seem to be what I was in the mood for. I’m SO glad I kept on at it! I looked forward to driving because I knew I’d get to spend some time with Jena and her sisters.
I always feel that with fairy tale retellings you either love them or you don’t and they’re either superb or blah. This retelling was, in my opinion, superb. It added a unique spin on not only one, but TWO fairy tales, weaving them together with a real location and a real time period. I also loved how feminist it was, how you have five sisters who each represent different facets of being a woman. The only downside I saw was that I wanted them to rise up and overcome Cezar and his bullying, but they never really did. I had to keep reminding myself that in the 1500s (or whenever this took place) this wasn’t exactly possible.
Overall this was a great book on tape, full of mystery and suspense, as well as lots of sisterly love and romance. I loved just about every second of it and miss my girls already!
Yearbook Quote: “If a man has to say trust me it’s a sure sign you cannot. Trust him, that is. Trust is a thing you do without words.”
Superlatives – Most likely to make you okay with having to kiss a lot of frogs
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