Book Review #2

The Healer’s Apprentice (Fairy Tale Romance Series #1)

By Melanie Dickerson

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Genre: Christian, Fantasy, Historical, Medieval, Romance, Young Adult

Pages: 272

Chapters: 28

Point of View: Third Person

Published: 2010

Back Cover Summary:

Two Hearts. One Hope.

Rose has been appointed as a healer’s apprentice at Hagenheim Castle, a rare opportunity for a woodcutter’s daughter like her. While she often feels uneasy at the sight of blood, Rose is determined to prove herself capable. Failure will mean returning home to marry the aging bachelor her mother has chosen for her—a bloated, disgusting merchant who makes Rose feel ill.

When Lord Hamlin, the future duke, is injured, it is Rose who must tend to him. As she works to heal his wound, she begins to understand emotions she’s never felt before and wonders if he feels the same. But falling in love is forbidden, as Lord Hamlin is betrothed to a mysterious young woman in hiding. As Rose’s life spins toward confusion, she must take the first steps on a journey to discover her own destiny.

Themes:

Duty and Honor, Faith and Trust, God’s Will, and Love and its Influence (or lack thereof) on who one marries within Social Classes.

Background:

I discovered The Healer’s Apprentice while searching for a new YA (Young Adult) Christian novel. As I looked at the YA selection on a Christian website, several books by Melanie Dickerson appeared. What initially drew me to this series is the premise that these books are based loosely on classic fairy tales. However, the author’s books are not exactly like the fairy tales that you may have read or watched; the author reimagines the classic fairy tales in creative ways one of which is that many of her characters believe in God and/or talk about God.

The Healer’s Apprentice is the first within the author’s Fairy Tale Romance Series, and it is loosely based on Sleeping Beauty. I will admit that the foundation of my familiarity with Sleeping Beauty comes from Disney’s version of the story. I have watched the movie multiple times and one of my main complaints of the movie is there are very few scenes involving Princess Aurora—I believe she is in a total of sixteen minutes of the movie. Thusly, it was difficult for me to connect with Princess Aurora in the movie. Therefore, discovering that there was a reimagining of the tale, I thought I would try this book.

Analysis:

Like the previous book review, there will be NO SIGNFICANT SPOILERS in this book review. The book begins in the spring of 1386; the location is the fictional town of Hagenheim, which is inspired by Hildesheim, Germany. In the first chapter, readers meet several characters that will be relevant for the duration of the book. What I liked about chapter one was that readers get a sense of who these characters are from the start. For example, Rose’s best friend Hildy is a romantic who has a difficult time believing that her best friend Rose does not have any desire to marry. As readers learn through the narrator, part of Rose’s reasoning is “If, as an apprentice, Rose could impress Frau Geruscha [the healer] with her skill, she would become the next healer” (11). For Rose, being apprentice to the healer means that she does not have to marry; I would say that quote in combination with the summary of the book suggested to me that being the apprentice was a security blanket for Rose so that she could avoid doing something that she rather not do.

However, the following sentences give insight into the true source of Rose’s motivation for not marrying. It says, “She could avoid the indignity of marrying someone out of desperation. So she’d never experience love. Most married people didn’t, either” (11). Rose did not want to marry unless it was for love. If you are not familiar with the way marriages worked in the Medieval Period, marrying for love was not the norm. Marriages were either for alliances, political, or financial purposes.

In the 21st century in Western Civilization, those reasons for marrying are no longer the norm. What has become the norm is dating different people for fun or for figuring out what qualities that you do want in a spouse. Being single and not dating because one would prefer to wait for whom God has chosen for he or she is counter-culture nowadays. The culture comparison and contrast between the Medieval and the present period is the initial reason that I connected with seventeen-year-old Rose Roemer. Rose was a young woman who—despite what the norm of her culture was—she refused to settle for a man that she did not love.

As the summary describes, Rose develops warm feelings for Lord Wilhelm Hamlin; however, his being betrothed does cause her to try to push those feelings aside. How is Rose able to somewhat do so? Enter the love triangle. Now, I must admit that I am not a fan of love triangles because it creates this back and forth and this frustration within me as I read it. I will not reveal who the third member of this triangle is, but I was not in favor of Rose and this other man being together. Even though there is a triangle, this one is done tastefully. There is no battle for Rose’s heart between Lord Hamlin and the other man, for Lord Hamlin is marrying someone else. Still, just as Rose has feelings for Lord Hamlin, Lord Hamlin has deep feelings for Rose, which he has difficulty stopping.

There are several strong scenes of dialogue within this book, but among my favorites are in chapter twenty where Lord Wilhelm Hamlin speaks from his heart. He says, “You are the virtuous one, Rose. You are the one with honor and pure love. It emanates from you” (183). Notice that Lord Hamlin describes Rose’s character and her heart NOT HER BEAUTYit is stated by other characters that she is beautiful. I liked Lord Hamlin’s character before this point in the book for reasons that will not be discussed here due to it involving significant plot details, but he is an example of the kind of man that Christian women (myself included) should desire. A man that follows God and does just as God wants all of us to do, which is to look at a person’s heart and character first instead of their appearance.  

One of my favorite chapters is chapter twenty-four. This is where readers see just how far Rose has come from the beginning. A young woman, who refused to marry unless she was in love, now chooses not to marry for a different reason. Rose says,

If God wants us to be together, then he will make a way for us. I don’t want to go against his will, not again. I tried to force my will on God once, thinking I knew what was best for me… If we try to force something else to happen, God will not bless it” (222).

Yes, marrying for love is wonderful; however, it is important to remember that it is not the primary reason one should do so. God is the one who created marriage and he did so for a purpose. Marriage is meant to further God’s kingdom and to be an illustration of Jesus Christ’s relationship with the Church. Thusly, God is the one who will open that door for you and I at the proper time. As Rose expressed, our trust should be in knowing that God knows what is best for us. The moment we try to make something happen due to impatience, we will have done so outside of God’s will.

Once I read the final sentence of the book, I was sad that I had finished it. I wanted to see the next chapter in Rose’s life. Even though, I had an idea of how the book would end, some of the twists and turns en route to the conclusion were very well done.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

  • What’s Your Favorite Fairy Tale?

  • Are you a fan of Young Adult Novels?

  • Do you enjoy reading stories that have Love Triangles?

  • Are you interested in reading The Healer’s Apprentice after reading this review?

Feel free to share your thoughts below!

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5 thoughts on “Book Review #2

      1. I definitely will!

        And… hmm. Well, I really liked The Fairest Beauty. 🙂 It’s the first one of hers that I read and still one of my favorites, and it’s about one of the sons of Rose and Wilhelm, so it’s the next chronologically after The Healer’s Apprentice, and has a Snow White plot. 🙂 It was great. ^_^ Probably my other favorite of hers was The Beautiful Pretender, (Beauty and the Beast + Princess and the Pea), although it’s the sequel to The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest so you may want to read that one before, but it can stand alone too. Anyways, those two are my favorites. 😀 (Her regency romance, A Spy’s Devotion, is really good too if you like that genre! It’s not a retelling though.)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, I love books set in the Regency period as well! It’s interesting that you mentioned “The Fairest Beauty” because I was thinking about reading that one next. 🙂
        Now, I will check it out since it is a continuation in the world Melanie Dickerson created in The Healer’s Apprentice. I’m curious about what Rose’s life looks like years later.
        Thanks for the suggestions! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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