The Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson (YA review)

thenobleservant_dickerson_thnelsonThe Goose Girl is a fairy tale that I have found more of an appreciation for after reading a full version of it as an adult, so the minute I learned that Melanie Dickerson’s new novel was to be a retelling, I became excited about it.  As usual, she did not disappoint.

While honoring the basic framework and characters of the original, Dickerson has enlarged and improved upon the traditional story.  Creating characters and events that are realistic while still retaining a bit of that fairy tale feel, there is quite the adventure in store for the sheltered Lady Magdalen and the young Duke, Steffan.

Both Magdalen, the daughter of a widowed and impoverished Baroness of Mallin, and Steffan, the Duke of Wolfberg, are forced to hide their identities and endure the life of servants.  Their attempts to thwart an evil scheme and to regain their identities, along with their changing relationship and attitudes toward one another, make for an entertaining read.

Do you always graze your geese here?”  If so, he would need to stay away from this meadow in the future.

She looked behind him and seemed to notice his sheep.

“I was told I might graze the geese here.” She lifted her shoulders and looked him in the eye.

He wanted to stay and talk with her, possibly find out if she was truly Lady Magdalen.  But geese were evil, and even Lady Magdalen herself could not convince him otherwise. (p.62)

Written for a Young Adult audience, there were a few times I did think that I would have enjoyed the story more when I was in that age group, but this did not prevent me from reading straight through to the satisfying conclusion.  However, there were some choices that could be implied from certain situations that made me less comfortable with this being a book for young adults, though those implications might have gone over my head when I was that age.  I do find this to be the case, at times, when I read YA or Middle Grade fiction.

Shall I sing for you?”

“That would be lovely.”

“But you might not like my singing, and I’m not sure if I can sing quietly enough.”

“Oh no, you cannot not sing now.  You must.”

“Will you laugh at me if I sing poorly?”

“Probably.” (p.267)

While including all of the elements I would expect of a Goose Girl retelling, there are definitely some surprises that make this a work to stand on its own.  This includes a strong faith element, that seemed to be in the forefront for Steffan in particular.  Steffan’s character development, while at times feeling a little rushed, was one of the high points of this retelling for me.  References back to characters Magdalen met in previous books in Dickerson’s Medieval Fairy Tale series, The Beautiful Pretender (read my review here) were also treat that, along with the German words judiciously sprinkled in, kept the setting rooted in place for me as a reader.

Highly recommended for readers of YA and lovers of historical fiction and fairy tale retellings with a faith element, though perhaps older YA readers due to some implied circumstances.  Melanie Dickerson has quickly become one of my favorite Inspirational YA authors and, along with eyeing her back catalog with great interest, I look forward to seeing what she chooses to write next.

From the Publisher:

She lost everything to the scheme of an evil servant.

But she might just gain what she’s always wanted . . . if she makes it in time.

The impossible was happening. She, Magdalen of Mallin, was to marry the Duke of Wolfberg. Magdalen had dreamed about receiving a proposal ever since she met the duke two years ago. Such a marriage was the only way she could save her people from starvation. But why would a handsome, wealthy duke want to marry her, a poor baron’s daughter? It seemed too good to be true.

On the journey to Wolfberg Castle, Magdalen’s servant forces her to trade places and become her servant, threatening not only Magdalen’s life, but the lives of those she holds dear. Stripped of her identity and title in Wolfberg, where no one knows her, Magdalen is sentenced to tend geese while she watches her former handmaiden gain all Magdalen had ever dreamed of.

When a handsome shepherd befriends her, Magdalen begins to suspect he carries secrets of his own. Together, Magdalen and the shepherd uncover a sinister plot against Wolfberg and the duke. But with no resources, will they be able to find the answers, the hiding places, and the forces they need in time to save both Mallin and Wolfberg?

The Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson, A Medieval Fairy Tale #3 | Thomas Nelson, May 2017 | hardback, 336 pages

I voluntarily received a finished copy for review from Thomas Nelson and Zondervan’s Fiction Guild.  All opinions expressed are my own.


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