Dance of Twilight and Tears by Zara Mills

Book Blurb:

Algae and toe shoes, feathers and tutus

Behind the gilded doors of the Paris Opéra Ballet, two best friends, Madeleine and Lucie, dance the night away. But at first morning light, their human bodies transform into webbed feet, billed lips, and wings.

When enchanted, the girls are the Bois de Boulogne’s famous black and white swans. For ninety years, they have floated in the lake, unable to find true love and break the evil Dance Master’s curse. But when Madeleine meets American transplant Zig Young, everything changes.

Suddenly, Madeleine wins a coveted solo spot in an upcoming ballet, and her growing relationship with Zig means she’s on the verge of breaking the enchantment. However, doing so means leaving the Bois, the ballet, and Lucie forever—something she’s not sure she can bear.

Desperate to not lose her best friend, Lucie will do anything to keep Madeleine with her—including betrayal. She’ll stop at nothing—even if it means breaking Madeleine’s heart and dooming her to life as a swan forever; even if she ruins her own chance at happiness.

In this retelling of Swan Lake, the lines of good and bad blur as Madeleine and Lucie struggle to choose between the life they want and their friendship.

Renae’s Review:

This modern take on the classic ballet, Swan Lake, beautifully presents the story of two best friends who have been cursed by an evil sorcerer to turn into swans during the day and live forever. Madeleine, the white swan, longs to find true love, break the enchantment, and live a real life. Meanwhile Lucie, the black swan, has resigned herself to the unending curse and longs simply to keep her best friend alive and safe, no matter the cost. Can Madeleine find a way to lift the enchantment and free herself, or will Lucie get her wish to keep Madeleine safe as a swan forever? Grab a copy of Dance of Twilight and Tears to find out for yourself how this magical tale ends!

“Determination grips ahold of me. He will not break me; he will not see how afraid I am; he will not win.”

There is so much about this story that I heartily enjoyed! The storyline itself was creative and beautifully told, and I loved the layers of the story going back centuries into the past. The choice to set such a beloved tale in a modern time was interesting, and while I don’t normally like modern stories, this one captivated me because the main characters were from historical times. Letting each of the main characters have her own POV was a fantastic choice, in my opinion, because it showed the complexity of the situation and made it so that neither of the girls were portrayed as true villains.

“‘Why are we like this? Why must we imprison the ones we love?'”

Aside from the story itself, the descriptions were fantastic. Zara Mills’ love of Paris was made abundantly, though not obnoxiously, evident as she described the scenery with detail and made me feel as though I were walking the rues of the City of Light with the girls. The fact that she used real landmarks in her story really helped bring it to life for me, as I constantly Googled each place she mentioned and was able to see Paris through the eyes of the characters. I feel like when I visit the Bois de Boulogne, Palais Garnier, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Sacré-Cœur, and other places around Paris, it will be like I’ve been there before (don’t worry, I’ll try not to be as snobby about tourists in Le Marais as the girls were haha).

“‘Love makes us do strange things.'”

That being said, few books are perfect, and this one had a few imperfections of its own. For instance, sometimes it felt like there wasn’t enough depth to the story. The premise was fantastic, but I felt like there could’ve been more detail, like there was more tale to be told. Also, there was a fair amount of repetition at times. Mills would make a point from one character’s POV, make it again with the other POV, and then say it yet again from the original POV. There was also a bit of a switcheroo with the romance storyline that threw me a bit. The love interest initially falls for one girl, but by the end, that girl says he’s in love with the other girl, which didn’t quite make sense to me. I can’t say more without giving obvious spoilers.

Still, this classic ballet story set in modern-day Paris is absolutely one worth reading, especially for people who love dance and feel even the slightest inclination to visit Paris someday. Zara Mills beautifully interweaves a magical tale with vivid descriptions, casting an enchantment over her readers that they won’t want to break.


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