The Thirteenth Princess


Author: Diane Zahler

Publisher: Harper (2011)

Pages: 243

Synopsis: Zita is not an ordinary servant girl – she’s the thirteenth daughter of a king who wanted only sons. When she was born, Zita’s father banished her to the servants’ quarters to work in the kitchens, where she can only communicate with her royal sisters in secret. Then, after Zita’s twelfth birthday, the princesses all fall mysteriously ill. The only clue is their strangely worn and tattered shoes. With the help of her friends -Breckin the stable boy, Babette the witch, and Milek the soldier- Zita follows her bewitched sisters into a magical world of endless dancing and dreams. But something more sinister is afoot -and unless Zita and her friends can break the curse, the twelve princesses will surely dance to their deaths.


The Thirteenth Princess, a The Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale retelling, introduces one more princess to the story: Zita, she’s the youngest of the bunch, but was sent to live with the servants because the king blames her for the loss of his queen, who died after giving birth. Zita grows up as a simple kitchen maid until the day she learns the truth and sets her mind into getting to know her sisters, and to be friends with them. Easy task, since the princesses are all kindhearted souls who want the same thing. So in this version of the story, instead of just a soldier, Zita too will be helping the princesses break the curse which makes them dance night after night until dawn, ruining their good slippers in the process.

I picked up this book first, because I am a fairy tale retelling nut, and second, because this one sounded like it had something new to tell, with one more princess who’s an outcast, shunned by her father and living in the castle as a servant, but by half of it, I realized that maybe I’ve already exceeded my quota of The Twelve Dancing Princesses retellings and spin-offs, because to be completely honest I soon found myself bored with this reading. It starts off okay, with Zita going about her servant life, and contrary to what I expected, she’s actually a happy young girl, she has friends, loves to spend time outside and to go for long walks in the forest, and even gets herself a special (boy)friend later, Breckin. Then she learns about her true identity, starts to get along with her sisters, and befriends the old witch living in the forest, and I thought this is it, the story is finally kicking off, and it is going to wow me, very soon…anytime now…just a few more pages…and it never happened. It takes so long for the princesses to start behaving in an unusual manner, leading Zita to investigate their night affairs, that until it happens I couldn’t really tell this was a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling -which could have been a good thing since I wanted something new and fresh, but somehow it wasn’t, and the actual fairy tale part brought nothing of truly unique.

Something I did enjoy in this book were the few scenes with Zita and the king. I mean, he rejected his daughter when she was a newborn, blaming her for an outrageous thing, so I thought he was going to be this incredibly cruel and bitter man, who would bring the castle down if Zita as much as misplaced a candlestick, but no, it was both heartbreaking and heartwarming to watch them interact.

So, summing-up: I can recommend this one as a cute little fairy tale book to those who unlike me, don’t read them on a regular basis, and thus don’t demand new points of view constantly. But I certainly can’t recommend it to those who do demand this and much, much more. And then again, maybe I just need to give The Twelve Dancing Princesses a deserved rest.

Rating: 5/10

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2 Responses to “The Thirteenth Princess”

  1. Just out of curiosity: How many retellings of this tale did you read? Are there really that many? (I only noticed recently the retelling has a huge selection of books to go aroun. I was blind. :D)

    And it’s a shame you ended up not liking it, but I guess it’s easy to get fed up with the same story, even if it’s told from different voices.

    • This is the 4th one:

      Wildwood Dancing (my favourite, of course :D)
      The Door in the Hedge
      Princess of the Midnight Ball
      The Thirteenth Princess

      I have another one wishlisted, Entwined by Heather Dixon, which I didn’t know was a The Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling until a few days ago.. xD

      Yes Ana, there are a lot of retellings out there, this website is great to get to know a few of them 🙂

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