Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson is an inspirational fiction fairy tale retelling set in the middle ages.

Rose, a woodcutter's daughter, is fortunate enough to have been apprenticed to the town healer, meaning that she won't be forced to marry just to secure her station in life. When she catches the eye of the duke's sons, her life starts to get extremely complicated. Wilhelm, the older son, is betrothed to a woman he has never met, and has spent years hunting the sorcerer who threatens her safety -- but he can't deny his feelings for Rose. Rupert, the younger son, romances Rose with flowers and jewelry and sweet words, but his love for wealth means that he will need to either marry a rich woman, or take a lucrative position in the church. Will Rose find happiness with either of the two?

I picked this up because I read a favorable review of one of the author's other inspirational fairy tale retellings, and I decided to start with this one because it was the first. The story, very loosely based on Sleeping Beauty, is pleasant enough, and the author ably incorporates her research on life in the middle ages into the book. There are occasionally places where the characters do or say something that seems a bit modern for their time, but those instances are the exception rather than the rule. My main issue with the book was that I found the plot entirely predictable, and not in a good fairy-tale-retelling way. There's a twist at the end, and I saw it coming from a few chapters in. Even the characters saw it coming, but dismissed it for one reason or another. It seemed entirely too obvious, so I kept reading, thinking that perhaps the author would twist it a different way at the last moment and surprise me . . . but she didn't. Also, the main character has a dog named Wolfie, and for some inexplicable reason, that minor detail irked me all the way through. Wolfie. I just can't. (I do give the author credit for not hurting the dog, though -- I always read books where the main character has a close animal companion with a looming sense of dread!) All in all, I think this is the sort of book that I would have enjoyed as a teen, back when I was less picky and read a lot more inspirational fiction. As it was, I found it just okay, and wouldn't recommend it unless the mashup of inspirational fiction and fairy tale really, really appeals to you.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

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