Monday, May 18, 2015

The Fairy Tale Romance Collection by Melanie Dickerson

If you've been checking in here for awhile the name Melanie Dickerson might sound a bit familiar.

Last Christmas season I had the opportunity to read the last book in this collection and review it in this post .
Overall, I enjoyed the book and found it held its own as a "read-alone" given the references to prior characters and books.

However, I love stories that continue on well, giving insight into the area or secondary characters that would have distracted from the initial plot. So when I was given the chance to review Dickerson's full fairy tale collection I eagerly signed on for a lighter distraction from these darned braxton-hicks :)

Dickerson's fairy tale collection weaves it's way through 5 medieval recreations of classic fairy tales (and I've heard rumours of two more novels expected to join the series). 
Each book bares its own driving theme i.e. Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, etc. .. and, with the exception of one lone tale, have a strongly interconnected nature following the same Noble family and their town as they grow and mature throughout two generations.

Book #1 - The Healer's Apprentice ( Sleeping Beauty) follows the story of a young village girl named Rose. Rose has achieved her dream of becoming her town healer's apprentice - thereby freeing her from the obligation of marriage out of duty rather than love something her mother is more than eager to encourage. Unfortunately, Rose finds herself at a disadvantage becoming unsettled/queasy/ ill-at-ease when it comes to people who are ill, bleeding, or in need of medical help- a problem for any future healer yet one that seems far less troubling than the noble who continually crosses her thoughts and path or his brother who seems intent on finding a way into her life.

The Merchant's Daughter (Beauty and the Beast) follows young Annabel who's family has fallen on hard times through a combination of her father's death and her family's selfishness. To save the family's prospects, Annabel becomes a servant at the new master's house but who's salvation is really at hand and what circumstances really surround the mysterious new master?

The Fairest Beauty (Snow White) technically follows young Sophie, a beautiful servant girl who has lived all her memoried life at the hands of a vain, cruel Mistress, however, this story also gives equal time to the young Noble Gabe. With Sophie's life at risk when her Mistresses' patience finally runs out, Gabe risks everything to save the young servant who may be his injured brother's betrothed while discovering some hard truths about himself in the process.

The Captive Maiden (Cinderella) Gisella grew up the daughter of a knight and a lover of the horses her father bred. After his death, Gisella became content to care and live with her father's horses trusting their companionship over the human's who betray and mistreat her. A chance encounter in the marketplace and a snowballing series of events at the town's tournament threaten to give Gisella a  chance at a life she's only dreamed of as long as conspirators don't turn her dreams into nightmares.

Overall, I enjoyed this series. Dickerson's work is a fun read for teen's and adults who enjoy Christian fantasy or romance novels as the books maintain a steady balance between both. As someone who can't really handle romance novels (darn pregnancy hormones) I found the relational aspects of these books to be mostly balanced and well maintained. The Christian aspect is also well worth noting as some reviews I saw floating around before reading the series myself felt this wasn't marked clearly enough in the series' identifiers (I disagree) but do note some books have sections that could be labelled as "preachy" depending on the readers' background and experience with religion.

Dickerson shows a lot of potential in her books and her skill shows evident signs of growth when her books are read in order (or reflected upon in context if you're like me and stumble across book 5 before 1-4). I found this to be a highly enjoyable aspect of the series as the character's depth and growth seemed to find parallels in what felt like Dickerson's personal growth and gained confidence throughout the series.

That said, I did find the early books were the ones that held my attention the longest.
Annabel and Rose were characters who felt more resonant, making their stories more personally appealing. 
It probably didn't hurt that Beauty and the Beast is a long-time favourite story of mine either which is why I was a little sad Annabel doesn't feature in later books as other characters are apt to pop in and out as the plot allows.

Granted a target audience of Christian fantasy/romance enthusiasts I would definitely recommend this series - in order :) - for readers looking for easier reads in these upcoming summer months.