A girl-forward fairy tale retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” about sisterhood, imagination, and bravery, lushly packaged and with beautiful full-color illustrations.

Acclaimed bestselling author Jessie Burton spins a new story out of a classic Grimm fairy tale. More than just shoes and marriage, this modern version deals with losing love, finding oneself, and reclaiming their right to live on their own terms. Three First Look Club ladies dive into the new world of the twelve dancing princesses — read their thoughts below.

A new twist to an old tale

Jody says: Burton reimagines an old fairy tale that revolves around the mystery of the worn and tattered shoes of 12 princesses. […] In her version of the fairy tale, we’re introduced to…12 princesses [that] may seem like the stereotypical ones at first glance, [but] actually represent a wider range of women immersed in different fields and interests that go beyond just sitting pretty and waiting for the magic to happen.

Katya says: Jessie Burton uses the original version’s many shortcomings to weave a new tale that gives these mysterious sisters the attention, the respect, and the ending they deserve. […] Twelve young princesses live their lives, pursuing their passions…but when the queen dies in a car crash, her grieving husband…locks them in a windowless room nightly to “keep them safe.”

Reina saysIt’s a personal fairy tale for me to nerd out with you about Jessie Burton’s modern, feminist take on the story, The Restless Girls. […] Our story begins after the girls have just lost their mother. […] Trapped in grief and loneliness, the twelve princesses discover a magical underground palace where they are free to dance every night – and where they find the courage to fight for their right to rule as princesses and to live as free women.

Twelve girls in a man’s world

Jody says: Each of these 12 girls is smart and skilled in particular areas like writing, astronomy, math, music, and even animal medicine to name a few. […] The king, who represents the antagonist in the book, for example, isn’t your typical “evil” villain. His actions have clear motivations, and while not everything he does is forgivable, he isn’t written off to die at the end.

Katya says: Burton populates The Restless Girls with a variety of characters: irrational fathers, bumbling advisors, charming, captivating animals, and smug, pompous men. But at the heart of the story are the princesses. […] Leading the princesses on their wild adventures is Frida, the eldest and cleverest of the girls. But each of the sisters, down to innocent, young Agnes, gets the chance to shine, even in situations unrelated to their interests.

Reina saysFrida is a typical fairy tale hero: compassionate, clever, and capable. In contrast to the king’s passive advisors she is passionate and outspoken; in contrast to her father’s blustering temper, hers is diplomatic and calm. […] As for the eleven other girls, beyond their introductions and resolutions, some sisters weren’t given much part to play. […] Superbly, their sisterhood didn’t crumble when removed from the main character; rather it evolved into a dynamic that had a cleverness and style all their own.

A bedtime story for a new generation

Jody says: For the young girls who’ll be reading this book, they’re in for a tale that’s just as magical as the Disney classics, but one that also goes even further by empowering and emboldening them to do more than just sit around for their happy ending. Burton pushes girls to think, thrash, dance, explore, fly planes, and ultimately, forge their own Happily Ever After.

Katya says: While I found the plot simple, even predictable, The Restless Girls wasn’t made for me, but for a new generation—and it gives me hope that today’s children won’t grow up with stories that turn women into prizes for others to win. Instead, they’ll be shaped by fairytales that tell them that their hearts and minds are their own, that adults aren’t always right, and that they can conquer anything they put their mind to… with kindness, cleverness, courage, and a pinch of magic.

Reina saysThe Restless Girls is a story of freedom for girls and boys of all ages and races (have I mentioned Angela Barrett illustrated our princesses with lovely coffee-brown skin and beautiful, big and braided, naturally curly hair?). The right to a life without walls is universal, and the way that leads to it is always a path that is wise to pursue.


The Restless Girls by Jessie Burton will be available soon at Fully Booked stores. Reserve a copy in advance here.

Jody is currently an undergraduate student taking up Education and is discovering everyday the greatest bits about reading and learning that fuel our thinking. Read her full review here.

Katya has had a torrid romance with fiction for over two decades, and sneaks out in the middle of the day for clandestine rendezvous in cafés. She works in advertising and has four poodles. Read her full review here.

Reina has harnessed her powers working as a social media manager for almost a decade. Read her full review here.

[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]

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