Author: Melanie Dickerson
Review by Grace Olson
I have always loved fairy tales. Beauty and the Beast is probably my favorite among those Disney has reproduced. These fables have also gained in popularity in recent years, the story of Snow White in particular, evidenced by such productions as Once Upon a Time, Mirror Mirror, and Snow White and the Huntsman. Disney’s version of this young woman with lips as red as a rose, skin as white as snow, and hair as black as ebony has been redone several times, but I would argue that this particular retelling is the best that I’ve seen or read. The Fairest Beauty takes a young woman with an unnatural voice (don’t you agree? I mean, what’s with Snow White’s voice in the Disney movie? I don’t get it.) and molds her into a strong, relatable character who many young women can identify with, but first, let’s cut to the story.
Sophie does not understand why Duchess Ermengard hates her. After all, what has Sophie ever done to her? But that doesn’t keep the evil Duchess from abusing her verbally and physically. When a handsome stranger comes to Hohendorf, Sophie can hardly allow herself to hope, but what he says is shocking. Could it be true that she is the only daughter of Duke Baldewin, long thought dead? The young man, Gabe, tells her that if this is so, she is his brother’s betrothed, the first born son of Duke Wilhelm of Hagenheim. When the Duchess attempts to kill her, Sophie and Gabe flee to the Cottage of the Seven. But are they truly safe there? As they begin to spend more time together, an equally challenging question is whether they are more in danger of losing their lives…or their hearts to each other.
When an old woman appears in Hagenheim and tells a tale of a young maiden, the daughter of Duke Baldewin, in the clutches of an evil duchess, Gabe sees but one answer to the question. They must discover if this is truly the duke’s daughter, and thus Gabe’s brother’s betrothed. The tantalizing lure of an adventure and of besting his older brother proves too much for Gabe, and he embarks on the quest alone. Little does he know the trials he will have to face as he encounters an evil duchess, a traitorous huntsman, and heartless henchmen. Will he be able to protect Sophie or will his recklessness cost them both their lives?
I was very excited when I learned Dickerson was due to release another story. She has written two previous books, The Healer’s Apprentice and The Merchant’s Daughter, based off the tale of Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast respectively. I loved those two books, so I had high expectations for her latest. If you have read The Healer’s Apprentice some of the characters in The Fairest Beauty will be familiar to you.
Throughout the story, Sophie must come to terms with the horrible things the Duchess said to her, such as being unlovable and ugly. As she comes to realize how much the Duchess’s words affected her and how they were malicious lies, Sophie still struggles to trust as she wonders if the Duchess could have been right. I believe this is a very important message, because in this day and age, women and girls alike are being whispered this message from every magazine cover, every television screen, and the internet. They see other women (airbrushed women, I might add) who they think they should be like, and until they become that certain image of perfection, they are ugly and unlovable. Not true! Just as the Duchess repeatedly spoke those lies to Sophie, young women and girls are being inundated with those same lies, and they need to realize it’s false. Do not conform to the world’s standard of beauty. Have you ever heard that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made”*? Did you know that there is a Man who loves you so much He died for you*? Men and women alike, I might add. What if this message was distributed to every woman and girl, young and old? How would it change how they think? How they view themselves?
The romantic theme in this book is sweet and one can’t help but feel the character’s anxiety as they try to work through their feelings. I couldn’t help but cheer the characters on in their struggles, hoping all the while that two of the characters would be able to be together (no, I’m not going to name any names, you have to read it for yourself).
What I have always enjoyed about Dickerson’s novels is the spiritual element woven throughout the stories. The Fairest Beauty was no different and did not disappoint. Sophie struggles against hating the Duchess, a very difficult task considering the horrible things the Duchess does and says to her, and both she and Gabe wonder about God’s will for their lives.
About the Author
Biography from Melanie Dickerson’s website. Melanie Dickerson is an award-winning author who earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from The University of Alabama. She has taught in Georgia, Tennessee, Germany and the Eastern European country of Ukraine. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA), she now spends her time writing and taking care of her husband and two daughters near Huntsville, Alabama. ~ To learn more about her and the other books she has written, visit her web page: http://www.melaniedickerson.com/index.html
I’m glad that I bought a copy of The Fairest Beauty. This is a novel I know I’ll enjoying rereading in the future. I loved how relatable Sophie was, how I could really understand her and how she felt. After all, it is the characters of a story that bring it to life, and if an author cannot make them near and dear to our hearts, then there is no story. I’m definitely looking forward to Dickerson’s next novel, and if I heard the rumor right, her next is going to be continued in the same vein as her others, loosely based on fairy tales. If I’m right, we should be looking for Cinderella this October. But back to The Fairest Beauty, I would highly recommend this novel, especially to the lovers of fairy tales.
The Fairest Beauty is available for check-out, download, or paper copy.
*Psalm 139:14, John 3:16