Review: Princess of the Midnight Ball

Author: Jessica Day George
Series: Princess #1
Publication Date: January 20, 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Reading Level: Young Adult (12+)
Pages: 272 (Paperback)
Source: Bought
A tale of twelve princesses doomed to dance until dawn…

Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls. All they need is one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love—to conquer their foes in the dark halls below. But malevolent forces are working against them above ground as well, and as cruel as the King Under Stone has seemed, his wrath is mere irritation compared to the evil that awaits Galen and Rose in the brighter world above.

Captivating from start to finish, Jessica Day George’s take on the Grimms’ tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses demonstrates yet again her mastery at spinning something entirely fresh out of a story you thought you knew.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

This is one of those books that will always put a smile on your face. I really don't know how else to describe this adorable fairytale re-telling.

One of the awesome aspects of this re-telling is that it stayed pretty true to the original tale. I must admit, I have never outright read the original tale, but I know the general gist of it because what young girl doesn't know a little something about the Twelve Dancing Princesses? So what I did know was portrayed beautifully in the story and other aspects of the tale that I didn't know were also rather interesting. All in all, this is an amazing re-telling that those who have enjoyed the story will greatly enjoy, just as much as those who have not read the story.

The main character of this story, Galen, is a nineteen year old boy returning from war. He lost his father to a stray bullet, his mother to lung disease, and his younger sister to a terrible cart accident. Thus, upon his country winning the brutal twelve year war with Analousia, Galen returns to his aunts family, the Orms, in the kingdom of Westfalin. They are the gardeners of the royal family, who is currently under great duress. See, the King has twelve daughters and is widowed, his wife passing a few years after the birth of the youngest six year old daughter. The eldest daughter, Rose, is inconceivably ill and worse, a mystery has arisen about the princesses that is spreading talk of witchcraft all over the kingdom. The princesses wake up every third night with their dancing slippers destroyed. When their father, King Gregor, demands answers, they find themselves tongue-tied. He gives young prince suitors a chance to marry one of his daughters and take over his throne upon his death if they can successfully figure out what is happening to his girls and their nightly excursions, but all return home with no answers and are mysteriously dead within a few days. Only young Galen can find a way to unravel such an intense mystery (and boy, is it a truly enticing little mystery).

Another thing I enjoyed about this book was George's characterization. Galen is becoming a favorite hero of mine. He's strong, determined, intelligent, and has a huge heart. When he begins working under his Uncle in the Queen's Garden as an under-gardener, he quickly becomes enraptured with Princess Rose and decides he must do everything in his power to save her from the unknown wicked curse that is holding her and her sisters prisoner.

Then, there are the sisters. The sisters characterization exemplifies George's eye for detail, especially when it comes to attitudes. All twelve sisters were incredibly different entities. One was obsessed with music, the other prayed most of the day away. The youngest ones just wanted to be children, and the eldest aspired to be proper ladies. But, I must admit, upon my initial meeting with them, it was hard to get their names straight. As the book progresses, George cleared up all possible worries with them and gave them unique personalities that allowed us to differentiate between them. I must admit though, that I found some princesses to be hopelessly unimportant compared to the others. Rose, Lily, and Jonquil were all important because they were the eldest, wisest, and smartest. The younger ones, Daisy, Petunia, and Pansy, were always mentioned because they were the ones breaking down most. Hyacinth was mentioned often for fainting under duress and praying her worries away, etc. But then there's a sister like Iris. She was mentioned in passing often and I felt like she was nothing compared to her sisters. I'd rather have them all serve the same type of part than just a few.

I also found the little quirks in this novel to be slightly entertaining. The number twelve is repetitive throughout this novel. There are twelve princesses, the King Under Stone has twelve ghastly sons, the war waged for twelve years, and many others. It reminded me of the concept of three found in Dante's Inferno. And the importance of flowers because of the late Queen's love of gardening thus her desire to name all her daughters after her beloved flowers were cute as well.

George's creativity also is apparent in her depiction of the country and the surrounding territories. As a history buff and devoted AP World History student, my knowledge of simple European geography allowed me to envision the world that George created. She took our map and revolutionized it in a fairytale way. Even so, with characters that refer to each other as Herr or Frau, you can easily infer that this book takes place in a fairytale Germany. I thought this to be a really interesting concept that I would never have thought to come up with. I encourage anyone reading this to pick out the little details to see if they can have as much fun recreating the map as I did.

All in all, I have to say that this book was very sweet. Though I have never read anything previously written by George, I plan on continuing more novels by her because she is such a great author. With great attention to detail, she was able to both produce the beautiful views found in the Queen's Garden while, in comparison, she could make us feel the creepiness that is the King Under Stone's underworld. She's a very gifted author that I highly encourage checking out. Perfect for readers of all ages, this is a great tale that will never cease to make you smile that can easily be finished in a single sitting. It's captivating in the sweetest of ways.

4 stars

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Gillian of Writer of Wrong's review can be found here. This was one of her dares to me in honor of March Fantasy Month


  1. I absolutely LOVED this book. Galen was an amazing character and I liked how every princess has her own voice. And you are right, this story stays very close to the original story, but the author still managed to put her own stamp on it. You should definitely read the next book! :D


  2. Yay! You liked it! I thought you would. It's cute, isn't it? I liked that it hewed so closely to the original, didn't try to be too gritty or complex, and had fun with European geography. Plus, Galen KNITS! I thought that was just adorable.

    1. I know right! I meant to mention that in my review. If I didn't oh well! But I like the explanation about his military background and such!

  3. I really really enjoyed this book as well! I have to admit that I LOVED Galen, he's pretty darn amazing! And I liked what you had to say about this sisters, they did all stand on their own to feet and were very distinct! It made it fun to be able to meet so many fun characters in one book! I have the second book in the series as well, but I haven't gotten a chance to read it yet!

  4. I love this book as well. It has been a favorite of mine since childhood. Galen is a wonderful character, and I love how the princesses all reach out to us with their own voices. I'm happy that the other books in the series tell more of their stories.

  5. I was actually in a bookstore the other day, and almost bought the third book in this series. When I really want to read a series and have trouble finding it, I sometimes buy the series out of order ;)

    Anyways, I wasn't sure if the series was good, but I'm so glad it is. Galen sounds like an awesome hero, and I love sweet books <3 Amazing review!

  6. I've really been meaning to pick up some fairytale retellings, and I've been thinking about picking up this series for a while. I'm not a huge fan of sweet, fluffy-type novels, but this does sound really good, and The 12 Dancing Princesses story is one of my favorites. It is nice that, for the most part, the sisters were all given separate personalities, even though there were s many of them.