Thursday, June 25

Book Review: The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest: A Medieval Fairy Tale by Melanie Dickerson

So y'all know I'm a little bit of a medievalist and that I love a good fairy tale retelling (even if it's set in space!). With Once Upon a Time on summer hiatus, I needed something to fill my longing for castles, balls, and horseback rides through forests, and The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest was the perfect fit. I was intrigued when I saw the gorgous cover art and the description of the book as "Swan Lake meets Robin Hood," and this charming story really is the best of both fictional worlds.

As a former dancer, I was really excited to read a book that was not a retelling of one of the Grimms' fairy tales, but instead a retelling of a famous ballet! The plot of Swan Lake was derived from German and Russian folktales,  and Dickerson places her Odette in a fourteenth century German village that was devastated by the Black Death. Odette has been taken in her uncle, a wealthy merchant, who provides her with a tutor and books to read, but she remembers what it was like to be a hungry orphan and spends her nights poaching on royal forest land to feed the village's starving children.  When she finds out that Jorgen Hartman (perfect naming), the handsome man she dances with on Midsummer's Eve, is the forest's groundskeeper, she knows she should stay away from him - his adoptive father was killed by a poacher and he will stop at nothing to punish whoever is stealing game from the forest. Although the mayor's son is courting her and seems to offer her the life she dreams of, her thoughts keep coming back to Jorgen.

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest was an easy, quick read, and Odette's German village was a nice change of scenery - I think I was picturing the Oktoberfest area at Busch Gardens while I read, and Dickerson includes a few German terms and phrases that make sense in the context of the story without being distracting. The only historical anachronism that stood out to me was the characters' concern about a wound becoming septic - based on other books I've read, I don't think 14th century villagers had that level of understanding of germs and infection. 

One of Swan Lake's major themes is the desire of young people to marry for love, and that thread runs through The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest as well, with Odette and Jorgen trying to balance their strong affection for one another with their concern for each other's best interest. Even Jorgen's romantic rival, Mathis, though certainly no hero, is patient and considerate of Odette's feelings, unlike the mustache-twirling villains one encounters in a lot of historical romances! The ballerina in me was delighted that there was a little nod to the character of Odile (better known as the Black Swan) as well. One of Dickerson's strengths as a writer is giving each character, including the secondary figures, a distinct personality. This is a Christian novel, and I found the characters' desire to apply scripture to their struggles very realistic - Odette, for example, knows that stealing is a sin but justifies her actions through verses that exhort Christians to care for the poor. Overall, Dickerson presents a lovely fairytale love story that makes for a great summer escape appropriate for readers of all ages.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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