Three years after they have solved the problem of the evil underground King of Stone and his twelve sons in Princess of the Midnight Ball (or have they?), the king of Westfalin and his twelve daughters are still dealing with the aftermath. Some of the girls are suffering from PTSD, and the rulers of neighboring kingdoms are still bitter about the loss of their princes and other young men who died while trying to figure out the mystery of the dancing princesses in the first book. So the king of Westfalin institutes a type of exchange program, sending his daughters to other countries for extended stays with their royal families, to try to repair the relations with them and perhaps even to form some helpful alliances through marriages.
Princess of Glass follows one of the younger sisters, Poppy, now 16 years old, as she travels to the country of Breton and tries to deal with the social scene there. Poppy is so traumatized by her many years of midnight underground dances that she never wishes to dance again, but turning down dance invitations from important nobles is a bit tricky, as is dealing with the temperamental King Rupert of Breton. However, when Poppy meets Christian, a personable and handsome young prince who’s also visiting Breton from the country of Danelaw, she begins to think life in Breton might not be so bad. Her new friends in Breton try to help her ease back into society … and dancing.
But new problems arise, in the form of a resentful Cinderella character with a highly questionable fairy godmother. Ellen Parker is hopelessly inept and clumsy, in addition to being resentful and angry ― not a great combination for a servant. She’s also hiding the fact that she’s the former Eleanora Parke-Whittington, a gentleman’s daughter, descended into servitude when her family’s fortunes failed. When a mysterious fairy godmother offers to help Ellen regain her glory days and capture the affections of Prince Christian, Ellen is delighted that her fortunes are finally changing.
But the Corley, her fairy godmother, clearly doesn’t have Ellen’s best interests at heart. Godmother melts glass directly onto Ellen’s feet, shaping them into magical dancing slippers. She also creates an enchantment that affects the young men at the balls, making them forget every woman except Ellen (who is now, appropriately, going by Ella). The magical knitting that was so important in the first book comes back into play in Princess of Glass, as do other types of white magic.
Jessica Day George commented about Princess of Glass on Goodreads: “Basically I wanted to explore what would happen to one of the Twelve Dancing Princesses after their curse had ended. In the original story it says, ‘And they lived happily ever after, and they never danced again.’ So I decided to stick one of the girls into a new fairy tale, one where she had to dance, and see what she would do.” The aftereffects from the traumatic events of the first book still linger, and George explores several of the secondary effects in this sequel. It’s a nice touch, examining the question of “what happens next?” with an eye to the logical consequences of what came before. Poppy is periodically troubled by vivid dreams of the evil underground prince that she used to dance with, but at least in this book, these dreams remain just that. Readers will find out in the third book whether her dreams are created by memories of her past or are portents of problems to come!
Poppy is a delightful heroine, with a lot more snarkiness in her personality than her older sister Rose, the main character in Princess of the Midnight Ball. Despite being troubled by her past experiences, Poppy is determined and knows her mind, but is concerned about others at the same time. It’s a good thing that Poppy is so appealing, because Ellen/Ella is the opposite: she’s angry, conflicted, jealous of what she’s lost and what the ladies that she serves still have, and frustrated with both her appalling ineptitude and her lower status in life. In other words, an ideal victim for the fairy godmother’s schemes. She’s also a brat. For most of the book she’s a highly unlikeable character, which may put off some readers. The Corley, the villainess, struck me as a bit cartoonish, rather than as a truly ominous threat.
Overall I found Princess of Glass a charming read. I especially appreciated the element of surprise added by the greater creativity of the plot in this volume, as opposed to the first. While it’s firmly in the middle grade/younger YA category, I still recommend it for readers of any age who like lighter, young adult fairy tale retellings.