From the Vault: Princess of the Midnight Ball (Jessica Day George)

October 11, 2018 Book Reviews, From the Vault 5 ★★★★½

From the Vault: Princess of the Midnight Ball (Jessica Day George)Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
Series: Princesses of Westfalin #1
Published by Bloomsbury USA Children's on January 20, 2009
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, YA (Young Adult)
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library
Purchase: Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble
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Also by this author: Wednesdays in the Tower, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

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.


From the Vault: In honor of Jessica Day George’s birthday and Throwback Thursday, I’m reposting my review of my favorite JDG book, Princess of the Midnight Ball, which I originally wrote back in February 2013.



I love a good retelling of a classic fairy tale, and Jessica Day George’s Princess of the Midnight Ball is one of the best. George breathes life into the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, set it in an analog of 18th- or early 19th-century Europe. Our hero, Galen, is a battle-weary veteran of Westfalia’s 12-year war with Analousia, a conflict that claimed the lives of his father, mother, and sister; the novel focuses as much on Galen as on Rose, the eldest Westfalin princess.

It’s hard to pin down just what makes George’s retelling so captivating. She blends magical and realistic elements perfectly, lending a aura of believability to the most fantastic parts of the story. The characters, particularly the major ones, are well-drawn, and the back story George has constructed to explain the princesses’ enchantment makes sense of the tale and gives it depth. George’s princesses are unwilling participants in the underground balls, and the toll their forced nightly dancing takes, not on them alone but on the king and court and even on Westfalia’s relations with other nations, only increases the urgent need to solve the mystery—an imperative missing in the original story as I remember it. The attraction between Galen and Rose is limned with a delicate touch, and the interactions between the sisters—who, thankfully, have differing temperaments, though we don’t get to know all of them well—demonstrate a convincing solidarity in the face of danger despite their occasional differences of opinion. But none of those things by itself makes the novel work; rather, it’s the combination that paints the story with a magical glow.

Whether or not you’re familiar with the Grimm fairy tale at its heart, Princess of the Midnight Ball is a wonderful YA fantasy. Its enchantment will remain with you long after you turn the last page.




About Jessica Day George

Jessica Day George earned a BA in Humanities/Comparative Literature from Brigham Young University, where she enjoyed classes in Pottery and Old Norse, and dutifully forced herself to take Algebra and Biology. Originally from Idaho, she now resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and three young children.

5 Responses to “From the Vault: Princess of the Midnight Ball (Jessica Day George)”

  1. Lark

    I haven’t read this one…yet…but I do love George, and this happens to be one of my favorite fairy tales. Thanks for the reminder that I still need to read this one! 🙂

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      It’s lovely, and hovers somewhere between MG and YA. I’d say more YA given the age of the main characters, but there’s nothing in it that I’d be concerned about an advanced middle-grade reader reading. Either way, it’s a quick read but really good.