Returning home from the war, young Galen finds work with his mother’s family in the royal gardens. There he learns that the king’s twelve daughters have a secret: every night they dance their shoes to tatters, but no one knows how or why. When prince after prince tries and fails to find the answer, and the family is haunted by accusations of witchcraft, Galen decides to help. Armed with a pair of silver knitting needles and an invisibility cloak given to him by a strange old woman, he follows the princesses and unlocks the secret of their curse.
This book includes knitting patterns for a shawl and a chain of black wool that are key to the plot. I will also be posting more knitting patterns here that correspond with with the story.
Why I Wrote It
You know, I honestly don’t remember the day when I said, Hey, I’m going to write a novel of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. But I do remember suddenly jotting down notes, and telling my husband, my editor, my agent, that I was working on a novel that would have knitting patterns in it, because the man character was a BOY who KNITS.
This is not all that strange around my house. My maternal grandfather was a knitter. My husband’s close friend and former roommate knits, and he looks like he just rolled into town on a Harley. And I knit. I knit like my life depends on it, because if my hands aren’t typing, they have to be knitting or I’ll go crazy with pent up energy.
But enough about the knitting.
As I got into this book, I realized that I was throwing a lot of my interests into it, as though attempting to fit in all the things I hadn’t been able to do with Sun and Moon. I’d written a book, set in Norway, and chock full of trolls and polar bears and wolves and magic. Now what?
Now what, indeed! Now I needed to write a book with a knitter and a gorgeous garden full of flowers of every type, but especially roses. And where was that garden? Why in Germany (or a sort of Germany, anyway)! Germany, where I have spent many happy hours walking around drinking in the sights and smells. Germany, where stuccoed houses are painted pink or decorated with scenes from the Bible. But when would it be set? In the early 19th century, when Britain’s Regency was in full romantic swing! And there would be a mysterious underground palace, too, carved of obsidian, where strange pale princes danced forever with their captive brides. There would be jokes, and dancing, and mysterious old women, and pastries, and all good things.
And somebody, absolutely, had to be stabbed with a knitting needle.
Oh, where to begin with this one!
The gardener Walter Vogel is an homage to Walter von der Vogelweide, a 12th century poet who is a particular favorite of my husband’s. In one of Walther’s poems he is sitting on a rock thinking about the world, and thus when Galen first encounters Walter Vogel in my story, the older man is also sitting on a rock thinking about the state of the world.
Of the princesses, Poppy’s name is in honor of Tad Williams’ War of the Flowers, a favorite book of mine. Petunia is from playing Super Mario Bros. with my brother’s friend Roger, and having Roger get really excited and shout, "Run, little man, run! Don’t let the giant petunia get you!" Which became a catchphrase at our house. Jonquil comes from the name of a nightclub at a hotel I once stayed at, which seemed hilarious at the time. The Jonquil Room. It’s just fun to say. And Campanula is another weird flower name, along with Hyacinth and Lilac. LIE-LAAAK. Rose is my favorite flower, and lily is not only a beautiful name, but also a flower that seems demure and lovely, but is quite hardy and strong.
Most of the other names are merely common German names, but Hans Wilhelm Kelling was the name of one of my German professors.
The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, carries signed copies of Jessica's books. You can also have them personalized by Jessica and shipped directly to you. Contact The King's English for details.