The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell (2011)
The Princess Curse is an intriguing blend of the myth of Persephone and Hades, and the fairy tales The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and Beauty and the Beast.
In the royal castle of Sylvian twelve princesses are bound under a mysterious and powerful curse that causes them to wear out their slippers every night. Anyone who attempts to discover their secret either disappears or sinks into a state of sleep, from which they never awake. Any attempt to separate the princesses from the castle results in disastrous consequences.
Thirteen-year-old Reveka is the new royal herbalist’s apprentice, who's determined to find out how to solve the mystery and break the curse, that she might win the substantial reward. Her first challenge is to find a way to use her herbal arts to make herself invisible - but that mean feat is the easy part of the task she has set herself - for the curse is worse than she could have imagined, and the underground world she follows the princesses into harbours a terrible secret.
Reveka is a very likable, plucky heroine, and I enjoyed being drawn into her adventures. The themes of life, death and rebirth were fascinating; the exploration of an alternate underworld that has parallel influences with the real world above was also interesting. If I have one criticism, it's that the ending was a little bit unsatisfying - as though it was just the end of the first part, and a sequel was to follow. But despite this, it was a compelling and skillful weaving of fairy tale and myth.