Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

book cover

The Healer's Apprentice
by Melanie Dickerson

Trade Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: Sept. 2010

Source: Advanced Readers Copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Rose has been appointed as a healer’s apprentice at Hagenheim Castle, a rare opportunity for a woodcutter’s daughter like her. While she feels uneasy at the sight of blood, Rose is determined to prove herself capable so that she won't have to return home and marry someone based on his ability to help her brother get ahead in life.

Then Lord Hamlin, the future duke, is injured, and Rose must tend to him. As she works to close his bloody wound, her admiration of him shifts to love as he does his best to encourage her even through his pain.

But Lord Hamlin is betrothed to a Duke's daughter to bring peace between the two dukedoms. He's determined to find the man trying to put a curse on his betrothed so that she can come out of hiding and marry him. But Lord Hamlin finds his own admiration of Rose changing into something deeper.

Rose must decide whether to follow her heart or trust God to work things out to their best end.

The Healer's Apprentice is a charming Christian teen romance novel set very loosely in 1386 AD Germany. While the author did work some "what life was like" historical information into the novel, it had more of a fairytale feel due to some of the details and since it wasn't tied into the larger historical picture.

Lord Hamlin was too good to be true and most of the characters didn't have much depth to them, but I did like the characters and enjoyed reading about them. I also liked how Rose learned from her choices. However, during the dance scenes near the beginning, I was confused by how Rose thought one way ("I don't trust him or like him, but I must be polite") but acted another (she flirted with the guy). I wasn't sure what the author was trying to portray: naivete, confusion of feelings, or what. Though Rose often acted contrary to her thoughts, the reason for it was more clear in the later scenes.

Christian faith played a continuous but low-key role in the story. I liked that Rose's and Lord Hamlin's trust in God grew throughout the novel and that they listened to His subtle guiding. However, it's unlikely that a healer (even a ex-nun healer) would really have a complete, personal copy of the Bible in 1386 AD. Also, some of the Catholic church elements seemed slightly off, and our Catholic main characters sometimes behaved more like Protestants. So that part didn't seem highly historically accurate.

There was no sex or bad language. One character was a "conjurer" of demons, but there was no fantasy/fairytale magic. Overall, I'd recommend this novel as charming, clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Spring, 1386. Hagenheim. The Harz Mountains, Lower Saxony.

The towns people 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 topheavy, 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 from 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.

Rose’s dog, Wolfie, began barking so zealously his front paws lifted off the ground.

Hist. No barking.” Rose leaned down and rubbed the ruff of fur at the back of his neck.


Her heart leapt at the horrified tone in Hildy’s voice, and she stood and faced her friend.

“You didn’t even wear your best dress!”

Rose glanced down at her green woolen kirtle. “Oh, Hildy. As if it matters.”

“At least your hair looks beautiful.” Hildy ran her hand down Rose’s loose mane of brown curls, only partially hidden by her linen coif. “How do you ever hope to get a husband if you don’t pay more attention to your clothing?”

Rose scowled. “I don’t hope.”

How many times would she have to explain this to Hildy? When Rose was a little child, Frau Geruscha had taken a liking to her. Now that Rose was grown up, the town healer had chosen Rose to be her apprentice — an honorable life’s work that would prevent Rose from being forced to marry. Frau Geruscha, having grown up in a convent, had not only taught Rose about medicinal herbs, but also how to read Latin — a skill Rose was very proud of. But it was a skill most men would hardly value in a wife.

Read more of chapter one

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