Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier is one of my favorite YA novels. I first read the book in middle school, and I have reread it many times since. If you like books that spin classic fairy tales, then you should give this book a try. Wildwood Dancing mainly combines “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” and “The Princess and the Frog,” but elements of other fairy tales are sprinkled throughout.
Jena goes to the Otherworld with her four sisters (and a magic frog) once a month for celebration and dance. The sisters live a charmed, happy life with their merchant father and household staff. However, when their father becomes ill, Jena must look over the house and family business. Her cousin, Cezar, is asked to help. However, tensions rise in the Otherworld when the Night People join the party. It does not help that Jena and Cezar have different views on the household’s business and responsibilities.
Reasons to love this novel:
Interesting portrayal of gender roles: This book takes place during the 16th century in Transylvania. This may come as a shock, but gender norms were not the same as they are today. Nonetheless, the sisters portray different kinds of femininity without seeming too unrealistic for the time. And toxic masculinity is certainly not free from scrutiny here.
Strong female character: This is related to the previous point, but deserves mention. Jena is a boss. Seriously. She literally runs her family business, and every part of her being rebels against oversight. She holds her family together. Jena also has her own flaws, which make her interesting, real, and easy to believe in.
Intricate storytelling: Some parts of this novel are a little predictable. However, I was still on the edge of my seat the first time I read it. Other parts of this novel are surprising, and elements of this story are woven beautifully throughout. It thoroughly conveys the captivating, beautifully, and slightly dangerous feeling of old fairy tales and superstitions.
This opening line: “I’ve heard it said that girls can’t keep secrets. That’s wrong: we’d proved it.”
This book is a fun, compelling read. Its characters are relatable. Its setting is developed. The romance is endearing. I could rant about this story for a long while, but it’s best to leave the surprises to you. Happy reading!