Friday, February 11, 2011

The Healer’s Apprentice

Title: The Healer’s Apprentice

Series: Stand-alone

Author: Melanie Dickerson

Genre: YA fairy-tale retelling/historical romance

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Healer’s Apprentice:

The townspeople of Hagenheim craned their necks as they peered down the cobblestone street, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Duke of Hagenheim’s two handsome sons. The top-heavy, half-timbered houses hovered above the crowd as if they too were eager to get a peek at Lord Hamlin and Lord Rupert.

Rose shifted her basket form her left hip to her right and wrinkled her nose at the stale smell of sweat from the many bodies pressed close, mingled with the pungent scent of animal dung. Chickens and children skittered about, the clucking and squealing adding to the excited murmurs.

“I’ll wait with you to the count of one hundred, Hildy, then I’m leaving.” Rose couldn’t let Frau Geruscha think her apprentice was a lazy dawdler.

“Are you not curious to see if they’ve changed?” Hildy asked, her green eyes glinting in the sun.

“No doubt the duke’s sons have developed into humble scholars after two years at Heidelberg’s university.” Even as she spoke, she glanced up the street. In spite of wanting Hildy to think her indifferent to the young noblemen, Rose was glad she had a good view.

A medieval apprentice to the village healer falls in love with a duke betrothed already to a lady-in-hiding.

Craft: I found The Healer’s Apprentice a delightful tale that will curry the favor of many sappy romantic.

Though somewhat predictable due to its ties to a familiar fairy-tale as well to the more formulaic-styled romance, this story remains engaging. Many of its characters are heart-warming. Subplots add a moderate amount of tension, as does the desire to see how this particular romance works out. The descriptions vividly display the historical setting without becoming cumbersome.

Content: Many of the spiritual and thematic threads in The Healer’s Apprentice are directly to the forbidden romance. As a result, issues such as the desired to be loved, chastity, the difference between love and lust, learning to let go, and God’s ability to do the “impossible” are all touched on.

While most of this works well, I felt a couple things were left incomplete, which could leave a wrong impression in our in-love-with-love culture.

First, while we all desired to be loved and need others to love us, that desire ultimately cannot find total satisfaction in any human source. No husband’s—or wife’s or parent’s or child’s or friend’s—love can fill that void. In fact it is possible to be loved quite tenderly by many people and to still crave love, to still feel unloved. Only God’s love is complete enough to satisfy such a craving.

Second, a character says of her birth parents, “It’s merely that...they gave me away. They couldn’t have loved me.” I think many a birth mom who “gave away” her child for adoption would disagree with that statement. Often the greater loves comes from one who can let go another if it’s for their safety and benefit—even though you want to hold onto them desperately. In fact this very principle is illustrated earlier in the story, leading me to believe this implication was unintentional. Nonetheless, because of the place of this statement in the story and the lack of a rebuttal that displays the truth, I felt this needed to be mentioned here.

Summary: A couple questionable elements in the content cause me some concern, but overall The Healer’s Apprentice is a delightful tale worth reading. Recommended, with a light caution toward those who read primarily romance or have tendencies toward falling in love with love.

Ratings: Craft—4, Content—3, Overall—3.7 out of 5 stars

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