Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Book Review: The Peasant's Dream by Melanie Dickerson

In this reverse Cinderella story, a poor farmer’s son, who dreams of using his talent as a woodcarver to make a better life for himself, falls in love with a duke’s daughter and must fight for a chance to win her heart.

Adela is the youngest daughter of Duke Wilhelm of Hagenheim and is never allowed outside of the castle walls. She loves her family, but she sneaks away one day to the market in the town center. There she meets a handsome young man and wonders what it might be like to fall in love with a poor farmer with a kind heart instead of marrying the man her family is suggesting for her.

Frederick earns the income for his family and defends his mother from his father’s drunken rages. He also uses his talent and creativity to carve figures, animals, and scenes into wood, and he's asked to carve these scenes into cathedral doors when his talent is noticed. Frederick is inspired by the sweet and beautiful Adela, but he has no knowledge of her true identity. When he gets swept up into a plan to kidnap the duke’s daughter, both are shaken by what they learn about the other.

With the heartbroken Adela resigned to an arranged marriage with her noble suitor, Frederick must decide what he’s willing to risk for love.

Since childhood, my favorite fairy tale has been Cinderella. I’m drawn to adaptations of the story, so it was no surprise that The Peasant’s Dream by Melanie Dickerson would pique my interest. In this version, the narrative is somewhat reversed, in that the “Cinderella” is actually a poor farmer’s son who falls in love with a duke’s daughter. The male protagonist is Frederick, a wood carver who has in his life characters similar to an evil step-parent and two troublesome siblings. While there is no fairy godmother, no transforming pumpkins or glass shoes, this is still a delightful story and a fine addition to Dickerson’s Hagenheim series. The eleventh and final volume of this particular collection of fairytale adaptations, The Peasant’s Dream features the romance between Frederick and Adela, the duke’s daughter. Unlike the traditional story, this imagining features more action and internal thought, allowing for greater suspense building and a bit of character development. Incidents and individuals from other episodes in the Hagenheim series are mentioned, but knowledge of those other books is in no way required to enjoy this specific novel.

The book could be categorized as Christian YA fiction, so the content is very family friendly. The romantic content is fairly modest, the violence measured and without gory details. Dickerson’s style is not as complex as you would find in most adult titles, which makes it very accessible to younger readers and a quick page-turner for those of us in the ‘mature’ category. Topics regarding Christian faith do emerge from time to time, providing important lessons within the story. I appreciated the themes of redemption, forgiveness, and humanity’s ability to choose righteousness even when surrounded by evil. God is not seen as a “fairy Godfather in the sky” granting all our wishes, but Someone who will be with us through our trials, sometimes providing deliverance, and sometimes providing strength to endure hardship instead. That said, the spirituality of the story is not heavy-handed, and could easily be read by those from outside the faith. 

I reviewed Dickerson’s The Beautiful Pretender four years ago, and while I think I enjoyed that title a bit more, The Peasant’s Dream was still very entertaining. Not only did I enjoy the trajectory of the main characters' lives, but I appreciated the development of their family members and loved ones as well. There's even a romantic royal ball at the climax of the story! If you enjoy fairy tale adaptations or any of the other titles in the Hagenheim series, this one would make a pleasant addition to your “To Be Read” list.

About the Author

Melanie Dickerson is the New York Times bestselling author who combines her love for history, adventure, and romance. Her books have won a Christy Award, two Maggie Awards, The National Reader’s Choice Award, the Christian Retailing’s Best Award, the Book Buyer’s Best Award, the Golden Quill, and the Carol Award. She earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from The University of Alabama and has taught children and adults in the U.S., Germany, and Ukraine. Now she spends her time writing stories of love and adventure near Huntsville, Alabama.

Connect with Melanie Dickerson

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