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by Heather Dixon

“’He’s around the twist,’ said Azalea. ‘Breaking all the windows? He’s mad.’
‘Ah, no,’ said the King. ‘It’s only madness if you actually do it. If you want to break all the windows in the house and drown yourself in a bucket but don’t actually do it, well, that’s love.” 



Princess Azalea is the oldest of 12 girls, all of which love to dance. However, when their mother dies suddenly and the palace goes into mourning, their favorite pastime is now denied to them. Having made a promise to her mother that she would take care of the girls, Azalea tries to battle with her own grief and anger at their seemingly distant father. During the year of mourning, the girls discover a magical pavilion where a man called Keeper holds a ball every night. They are overjoyed and make a vow to never tell anyone. Unfortunately, things take a dark turn when they find out that Keeper is not who he says he is, and their vow magically prevents them from warning anyone else about him.



My mother told me that I can’t say that every book is “very good” because then none of them are, but I say oh nay-nay! They can be very good in different things! This particular book is “very good” when it comes to explaining the different responses to grief, family misunderstandings and all around familial love. Having gone through the death of a parent myself, I could empathize with the girls in their sadness. However, reading this as an adult, I can also sympathize with the father, whose grief was different, and therefore caused a different reaction. I wanted to cry in those moments where the children were at odds with their father, and harsh words were said. But then I wanted to laugh in the moments of unexpected delight or anger that prompted the girls to throw projectiles (usually food) at others. I really have never read a book that truly showed the true stages of grief in a way that was healthy and encouraging.

And this was a fun book, filled with sisterly antics, fatherly protection and budding romance. There were so many times that I laughed out loud (no joke, I got a couple strange looks from the people around me to prove it). The humor was witty and unpredictable which made it easy to read. This was indeed, a “very good book”.

Age Group: 14+

Content Concerns: Grief, feelings of abandonment, coercion/extortion.

Language: 1/10 Though Bramble has a lot of interesting phrases and names to call others, I don’t consider them bad language. They’re just hilarious.

p. 72 One character tells another that they don’t want them. (family issues)

p. 168 A character threatens another

Violence/Gore: 3/10 Not too much description of blood/gore, but there are a couple of intense moments of the “thriller” variety that if you have a good imagination can be a little frightening (the chandelier and the rug terrified me, no joke).

p. 28-32 Character death and the emotions/reactions that ensue from others characters.

p. 54-55 Potato throwing (no, I’m not kidding. Those things hurt!)

p. 159-160 Characters feet are injured from dancing in boots. A bit descriptive but mild.

p. 171 A character bites another (come on guys, you just have to read the book to understand this stuff!)

p. 183-185 Character tells a story about another vowing to kill someone and then drinking blood.

p. 212 A character is pinned against a wall and then thrown out of the palace (one of my favorite parts of the book, I swear!)

p. 259-265 A character is pushed, cut and stepped on by a crowd. Another character’s face has been disfigured. The first character threatens to kill another.

p. 362-364 Two characters dance and one’s hands get restrained. Unwanted sexual advances get interrupted.

p. 385-394, 400-441 Main battle scenes. Not too much description in these, a bit of blood. One character is shot and dies but is brought back through magic.

Sexual Content: 1/10 It is a romance too, but very mild in that department. There is mostly talk about romance, a few kissing scenes, but that’s it. There are moments of unwanted sexual advances, but those are listed in violence.

p. 455-456 A declaration of love, one character jumps into another’s arms and kisses him.

p. 469-472 A proposal and kiss


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