The story is one part "Twelve Dancing Princesses" and one part "Beauty and the Beast". It takes place in a fictional medieval slavic country called Slyvania. Our herione, 13-year old Reveka, is an apprentice herbalist working at the castle where she is attempting to solve the mystery behind the princesses' curse to win a dowry and gain her independance.
This book definately hooked me from the beginning. The setting and character details were all very interesting to me and I found myself easily emersed in Haskell's world. I enjoy that she left out alot of unnessecary details by having to define each and every of the 12 sisters. We didn't need to know each and every of their names, quirks or personalities. Some stood out more than others to Reveka, and the ones who do are the ones we get introduced to. The author is wise not to waste time on laboring over insignifcant details like this.
For the most part, the pacing is good, though in a few parts it does slow down a tad. The only other problem I had was the ending. It leaves off on an odd place. The last chapter reads like an epilogue but she is not so much telling us what happens afterwards, but rather the immediate aftermath. But it is told in a voice very removed from the action as if she was like "Okay, I am going to wrap this all up - here's what happened. The End" It made for a awakward end to a piece that had, up until that point, felt very immediate and intense. Also, the very end of the story itself ended oddly. It makes me wonder if this is intended to be a sequel or series. If so, then it's fine, but if not, I find it a strange way to end the book. Not completely satisfying.
On the other hand, I do really enjoy that the author went through the efoort of making very complex, multi-faceted characters. The relationships Reveka has with others are so very beleivable, because none of them are clear cut or predictable. I appreciate it. This was definately a very refreshing new take on the story and despite the porblems I listed, it was a good read and I would highly reccomend it to anyone who likes fairy tale retellings and is looking for something new.