A Dance of Silver and Shadow: A Retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses
- Book info
- Author updates
When Princess Liliana and her twin sister set sail for new lands, she hopes to find adventure and romance. But the people of Marin live under the shadow of a curse--one powerful enough to destroy entire kingdoms. To protect them all, Lily and eleven other princesses are forced to participate in a mysterious and secret tournament.
Lily spends her nights competing in a magical underground realm and her days unraveling the dangers of this new court. Although she needs the help of the Marinese prince, Lily knows she can't let herself grow too close to him. There's no time for romance when the duchy is about to fall to the encroaching darkness and the winner of the tournament faces a terrible fate.
But Lily and her twin have a secret advantage. And Lily grows increasingly determined to use their magical bond to defeat the tournament, save the princesses, and free Marin. Except she might have to sacrifice true love to do it.
In this reimagining of the classic fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, there's a lot more at stake than worn out dancing slippers.
If you enjoy clean romance, adventure and intrigue, then try the books in the Beyond the Four Kingdoms series now! These interconnected fairy tale retellings each feature a different princess who has to fight for her happily ever after.
Beyond the Four Kingdoms reading order:
- A Dance of Silver and Shadow: A Retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses
- A Tale of Beauty and Beast: A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast
- A Crown of Snow and Ice: A Retelling of The Snow Queen
- A Dream of Ebony and White: A Retelling of Snow White
- A Captive of Wing and Feather: A Retelling of Swan Lake
- A Princess of Wind and Wave: A Retelling of The Little Mermaid
Release date: September 4, 2017
Publisher: Luminant Publications
Print pages: 346
Reader says this book is...: entertaining story (1) epic storytelling (1) heartwarming (1) terrific writing (1)
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
A Dance of Silver and Shadow: A Retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses
Bright banners and flags flew from masts and the tops of buildings. Everywhere I looked the sun glinted off a riot of color. I gripped the rail in front of me as the ship rocked gently, pulled along by lines attached to two smaller rowing boats. The harbor already looked full, with several ships anchored further back in the deeper water, so I was glad we weren’t attempting to enter under sail.
The Duchy of Marin, the city-state we were entering, was a center of trade. At least according to the Marinese Emissary who had brought us here. But I still hadn’t expected it to be so busy.
Look! I didn’t bother to open my mouth as I called my sister’s attention to a ship with rainbow sails. Our traveling companion, Princess Celine, had gone to see something from the other side of the ship, so neither courtesy nor secrecy demanded we speak aloud.
How delightful. I’ve never seen such a thing before. Sophie’s projected voice rang in my mind with childish delight. She hung over the railing, her golden curls blowing about in the light wind, a wide grin on her face.
I wasn’t sure if the enthusiasm was for the exotic-looking port, or the end of our long sea voyage. It would certainly be a welcome relief to feel land under my feet again. And I hadn’t even been seasick like my twin.
I glanced across at the Emissary and frowned. His eyes were roving over the many ships in the port, and I found the surprise on his face disconcerting.
I narrowed my eyes and stepped toward him when a loud voice hailed us all from the pier. I swung reluctantly back toward the dock and found Sophie alternating her gaze between me and the Emissary. After seventeen years, we were attuned enough that she could guess a lot of my thoughts, even if I didn’t speak them into her mind.
He looks a bit odd, doesn’t he? Are you worried? Sophie projected. Outwardly, she had stepped back from the rail and assumed a demure smile for the welcoming party on the pier.
I don’t know. But he’s the person who gave assurances about our safety. I don’t like to see him looking surprised.
We haven’t even stepped off the ship, and you’re already worrying about our safety. Why am I not surprised? Sophie’s mental tone swung between exasperation and amusement. You know that’s the Baron and Baroness of Lilton’s role, right? They’re the Arcadian delegation heads.
On the outside, I maintained the same courtly façade as my sister. But, internally, I sent her a mental image of my shaking head. You know I trust Gregory and Helena, but that doesn’t mean I won’t stay alert.
I know. Sophie sent the ghost of a laugh along with the thought. You’re hopeless. But one day you’ll have to realize that we’re not on our own anymore. And that my sickness was a long time ago now.
I sent her an apologetic grimace. She was right, I couldn’t help myself. Our parents had distanced themselves emotionally from us as children, and I could understand the complex dynamics behind that now. After five years of being secure in their love, I could even sympathize a little. They had meant it for the best. They never imagined that you could grow up lonely when you lived in a palace full of people. And, in a way they were right. We hadn’t been lonely, not exactly. Because we’d always had each other.
How many times had we told each other as children that it didn’t matter if our parents loved us, because we loved each other? Two halves of one whole. It didn’t matter if we were weak on our own—as long as we had each other we were strong.
I drew a deep breath, almost shaking at the memory of how close I’d come to losing her. To facing it all alone.
I’m sorry, Lily. Sophie’s apology came quickly. I didn’t mean to bring it back up. There’s enough going on right now.
I forced myself to smile. Don’t be silly. I’m fine. You’re right—it was a long time ago. So many years ago, in fact, that many of the details had faded away.
My mother had even recently assured me that I was remembering it all wrong. That Sophie had never actually been dangerously ill. A normal childhood sickness, she’d called it.
But I knew better. While the facts might have disappeared, as early memories do, the emotions still burned clearly. I knew if I closed my eyes, I could bring them rushing back, as powerful as ever. Fear for Sophie. The certainty that no one saw the danger but me. And the utter terror of being left alone.
But I couldn’t afford to dwell on those emotions now. I was no longer either helpless or a child. Sophie and I would be eighteen this summer, and I had spent years learning as much about healing as the palace doctors were willing to teach a princess.
I had no time for clouded judgment, I needed all my wits about me. Because we had finally arrived in this foreign land, and something was wrong.
And for all she had laughed at me earlier, Sophie’s next projection showed that she shared at least some of my concern. Has it seemed to you like the closer we get to Marin, the more nervous the Emissary has become?
I bit my lip. It doesn’t quite fit with the idyllic picture he’s been painting of his beloved duchy, does it? I noticed the slightest tremor in my sister’s clasped hands and stepped to her side.
Do you think we should have let Father send more guards? she asked.
I shook my head almost imperceptibly. No, Alyssa was right, I projected, referring to our brother’s wife, a favorite with us both. What would be the point? They have six kingdoms full of guards. If it comes to a fight, we wouldn’t have a chance.
But it won’t come to a fight. Sophie’s answering smile seemed more genuine than her previous attempt. The Emissary has made it clear Marin wants a trade alliance with Arcadia. They wouldn’t do anything to endanger our new ties. Sophie sounded confident now, her tremble gone.
My soft-hearted sister was brave and determined—she sometimes just needed to be reminded of it. A service I was always on hand to perform. Just as she was always around to remind me that I wasn’t responsible for everything.
Celine sidled up to us. “Is anyone else getting a bit of an odd feeling?”
“Absolutely.” I didn’t take my eyes off the people waiting on the dock. The sailors had nearly finished securing our vessel, and the Emissary had already stepped off to consult with the newcomers.
“Sounds like an adventure to me.” Celine bounced a little on her toes. “It has to be better than four weeks at sea at any rate.”
Sophie grinned at our friend. “It’s a relief to see land again, isn’t it?”
I listened with only half an ear to their comments on the unpleasantness of being cooped up for so long on a moving ship. The Emissary was now involved in some sort of heated dispute with the committee on the dock. And he looked increasingly unhappy about it.
The Emissary had led the deputation from Marin that arrived unexpectedly in our kingdom of Arcadia. He had requested that an Arcadian delegation return with him to his home. When he heard Sophie and I were considering accompanying him, he had given personal assurances to our parents of our safety in his land. I found it unnerving to see him so quickly discomposed upon our arrival. Perhaps we had been foolish to put our trust in his authority.
But the chance had seemed too good to miss. Old stories held that inhabitable lands existed beyond the Four Kingdoms, but no one in living memory had managed to find one. Any ships that tried to sail westward eventually encountered an impenetrable wall of storms of such severity that they were forced to turn back. So our surprise had been great when, two months ago, an unknown ship sailed into the harbor of Arcadie, the capital of my kingdom of Arcadia.
The Emissary explained that he came from a duchy nestled amongst another set of kingdoms. That all their attempts to sail eastward had previously been foiled by storms as well, until several fishing boats had recently reported calm seas for as far as they dared sail. His people wasted no time in outfitting their largest ship and sailing into the unknown in search of new kingdoms with whom to establish diplomatic ties.
It had all sounded exciting and romantic. And it seemed as if the High King himself must have sent his godmothers to open the way between our two lands. He ruled over all the kingdoms from his Palace of Light, helping us to keep the darkness at bay, and his laws decreed that a kingdom ruled by true love would prosper. Several years ago, the Four Kingdoms had seen a run of royal marriages that had been assisted by the godmothers and fueled by love, with the consequence that we were currently in an historic period of peace and prosperity. So, it had seemed only natural that the High King would clear the seas to the fabled other lands.
Sophie and I had begged to be included in the return delegation, and after much discussion, it had been agreed that we should go. Our southern neighbor, the kingdom of Lanover, was also sending a delegation that was to include our friend Celine, the youngest Lanoverian princess. No one had stated outright the reason for our inclusion, but none of us were foolish. We knew we were the only three unmarried princesses left in the Four Kingdoms. And a marriage alliance was the strongest bond two kingdoms could forge.
Well, the only unattached princesses of marriageable age, I conceded. Sailing away from my new niece, possibly the cutest button of a baby to ever exist, had been the hardest part about leaving home. Sophie and I had been so excited when the second child of our brother Max and his wife Alyssa had been a girl.
Three figures emerged from below deck and came to stand behind us. I felt my muscles loosen a little at their solid presence. The middle-aged couple and the older woman carried the same sort of reassuring authority as a parent. If something was wrong, they would see it put right.
Gregory and Helena, the Baron and Baroness of Lilton, were the official head of the Arcadian delegation, and the Duchess of Sessily led the Lanoverians. Sophie and I had been strictly enjoined to follow their direction in all things. The duchess was a highly respected negotiator throughout the Four Kingdoms, and everyone knew that Lanover never considered a new treaty without her input. In fact, so great was my parents’ admiration for her wisdom and shrewd intelligence, that they had instructed us to take careful note of any directions she might give Celine, and to match our behavior to any restrictions she chose to bestow on her own charge.
The Emissary, who was still on the dock talking with the group who had come to greet the ship, noted the arrival of the delegation heads and hurried back onboard. He bowed low before launching into a speech that only made me more nervous.
“I’m afraid there has been an unforeseen occurrence. Entirely unforeseen, I assure you.” He paused and rubbed his hands together.
“I’m sure, whatever it is, we can find our way through it together.” The duchess’ calm tones should have given anyone confidence, but the Emissary simply threw her a wary look.
“Yes, yes, certainly. Of course, we will do all we can. Our greatest desire is to see a profitable alliance established between our two lands and we would never willingly do anything to jeopardize that.”
I caught Celine’s eye roll just as Sophie projected, Gracious, he’s not good at getting to the point, is he?
Apparently our guardians shared this opinion. “Perhaps you might enlighten us as to this new development,” said the baron with admirable restraint.
“Yes, indeed. It has all happened in my absence, you understand. I had not the smallest inkling. How could I?”
“How indeed?” said Helena, the baroness, with apparent sympathy. No doubt our parents had hoped we would learn from her example when they had chosen her as a joint head of the delegation. She hadn’t been born to her station, as we had, but she carried herself with more dignity.
The man who had originally hailed the ship strode on board. “I’m afraid we really can’t wait any longer.” He cast an exasperated glance at the Emissary. “Their Highnesses will need to accompany us immediately.”
“Excuse me?” A lining of steel appeared around the duchess’ calm.
The man gave her an apologetic look. “You are welcome too, Your Grace, of course. But we only have room in the carriage for three. We didn’t realize there would be so many. Another carriage is on its way. But we cannot wait for it. The ceremony is about to begin, and we don’t know what will happen if Their Highnesses aren’t present.”
“What ceremony?” Baron Lilton stepped forward as if to shield Sophie and me with his body. I appreciated the gesture, but I also noticed a group of guards standing uneasily on the pier. Our small Arcadian honor guard looked equally uncomfortable, hanging back on deck and awaiting some sort of direction.
“The opening ceremony of the Princess Tourney,” said the Emissary unhappily. “Apparently it is beginning even now.”
The Princess Tourney? That sounds ominous. Sophie had her eyes on the Marinese guards as well.
Tourneys had long gone out of fashion in the Four Kingdoms, but our great-grandparents had apparently been fond of them. I had never heard of one with princesses, however. They can’t possibly mean us to joust with each other, can they? I tried to picture it and failed.
“The Princesses need to come with us now.” The newcomer reached forward and gently gripped my upper arm, attempting to lead me off the ship. “The Emissary will remain to explain everything. And you may follow as soon as the extra carriages arrive.”
I dug my heels in and glanced back at the baron and baroness. They both looked concerned, but I could read the truth in their eyes. They could do nothing against the might of this entire land. Even the ship we stood on was theirs. We would have to acquiesce and hope for the best.
I stopped resisting and gripped Sophie’s hand, dragging her along behind me.
Don’t worry, Lily, you know they can’t separate us. Not truly. Sophie looked at me knowingly, and I felt a renewed sense of justification for keeping our secret.
No one in all the kingdoms knew about our connection. Not since Nanny had passed away the previous year. She alone had known the true effect of the gift our godmother had given at our Christening. A greater bond than ever twins have shared before. And she had always advised us to keep it to ourselves.
“Your special secret,” Nanny had told us as children, and “Your special weapon,” as we had grown older. “It will unnerve others, unnecessarily,” she had warned. “You have no need to speak of it.”
I had wondered, sometimes, if she was wrong. If we should have told our family at least. But now I tucked the knowledge of the secret close. There was no way anyone in Marin could have heard of our connection so, whatever happened, we had one unexpected advantage.
The Marinese herded Celine along behind us and within moments had bustled us all into a waiting carriage. Their attempts to shut the door were hampered by Celine’s outstretched foot. “Wait,” she said. “Where are we going?”
“To the Palace, of course, Your Highness,” was the reply, before the door was forcibly closed. Celine collapsed back onto a seat, and I took her place, peering out the window.
The carriage jolted and started to move, and I watched the distant figures on the ship recede farther and farther away. Was it only minutes ago I had been comforted by the presence of the older nobles? It looked like I wasn’t going to be able to rely on them to fix things, after all. My earlier instinct had been right. If we wanted to stay safe, we would have to rely on ourselves.
“So what do you think about this ceremony?” asked Celine. “Are they carting us off to be innocent sacrifices? Ooh, or maybe we’re going to be part of a coup?”
“Celine!” Sophie sounded shocked. She’s ridiculous, she projected, apparently not wanting to offend our friend by saying the words aloud.
I had no such qualms. “You seem rather buoyant if you think we’re about to become maidens sacrificed to a horrible beast, or some such. And I can’t imagine what good we would do anyone in a coup.”
“Speak for yourself, Lily.” Celine smiled over at me before positioning herself at the opposite window. “It’s big, isn’t it?” She watched the city rolling past.
“The Emissary said the whole duchy is one giant city,” said Sophie, attempting to peer over my shoulder. “There must be a lot of people here with all those ships in the harbor.”
“I suspect they’ve come for this Princess Tourney,” I said. “That would explain why the Emissary looked so confused at seeing them all.”
“What in the kingdoms do you think a Princess Tourney involves?” Sophie looked a little nervous.
“Sword fights? Jousts? Hey, maybe they’ll have an archery competition. Marie’s been helping me with my aim.” Celine’s older sister-in-law had become something of an expert archer in recent years, but I didn’t have the same confidence in Celine’s skills.
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...