The Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson

Friday, October 18, 2013

About the Book:
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication Date: November 2013
Find the Review Elsewhere:
Series: Fairy Tales – book 4
Genre: Fiction; Young Adult/Teen, Fantasy
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 
There’s something comforting in experiencing a retelling of a beloved piece of literature, no matter the form. Dozens of writer’s have been tasked with doing this very thing. No one in the world of Christian author's is more widely known than Melanie Dickerson, and having already respun Snow White and Beauty & the Beast, she has most recently taken on Cinderella. This version introduces us to the kind-hearted but ill-treated Gisela. Ridiculed by her stepsisters and stepmother since her father’s death Gisela is treated as little more than a servant and she lives to do her stepmother's bidding. This hasn’t kept her from dreaming or wondering about the boy who once bought her father’s prized horse, Valten, the duke’s son. With many years between their first meeting and now, Gisela and Valten again meet but will fate again intervene to keep them strangers?

No matter how well I like a specific genre, I can be objective. Sadly, that is my lot with The Captive Maiden. Prior to reading it, I was predisposed to loving it already when I considered rave reviews from fellow bloggers and a love of all things fantasy, and indeed the book starts out really well – I instantly liked Gisela, and how the meeting between she and Valten played out. In this version, there is no expectation or worry over when and how Valten would discover Gisela (Cinderella) has lied to him or is simply playing a role just to be close to him, which would then turn things sideways Valten. That approach is unique and very much a reason this version works “better” – because here there is no need for lies to come between the would-be couple and the story isn’t as “worrisome” to read because of that. Sadly, I am not sure I can say there is much else I adored about the book.

Of course, the costuming descriptions were lovely and there were some “exciting” moments. Page after page chronicled some jousting matches switching off from Gisela’s worry and Valten’s thoughts and in my opinion that grew wearying. Especially when considering that Gisela rarely knew Valten beyond a child’s memory. I realize there does have to be some leeway since this is a fairytale and those are meant to break rules and take us on an unexpected, imaginative journey. I think what made the reading here a bit harder was that there were too many mash-ups of “contemporary” and historical. There were portions when I “felt” like I was in the period and then there were sections of dialogue that seemed “too” modern and were working against the frame of mind the historical novel should have on its reader. Because of these impressions, I just didn’t wind up pegging this as a favorite read. Just the same, I also am not sorry I read it. It has some charming qualities and I admire an author who uses the familiar and lets readers see it differently. That is what Dickerson has done with this Cinderella re-telling.

Anyone who enjoys this Fairy Tale series will probably like The Captive Maiden. It’s a wholesome look at a classic fable and that speaks volumes.

Synopsis: Happily Ever After ...Or Happily Nevermore? Gisela's childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father's death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela learns the duke's son, Valten---the boy she has daydreamed about for years---is throwing a ball in hopes of finding a wife, she vows to find a way to attend, even if it's only for a taste of a life she'll never have.

To her surprise, she catches Valten's eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined. - Goodreads

Sincere thanks to the publisher, Zondervan for a complimentary galley copy of this novel for the purpose of reviewing this novel.


  1. One of my pet peeves is when stories seem too modern for the time period in which they are set. I haven't read this one, but the cover is gorgeous! I liked her first couple novels, so I might still try to pick this one up if I have time. Thanks so much for your thoughts on this one!

    1. Modern elements in a historical is one of those things I am sometimes "bothered" by and sometimes not. I think it's all dependent on the story; if it's a story that's more comedic than not, I'm cool with it because it's not taking itself TOO seriously (like Ella Enchanted or Hansel & Gretel) but a book like this doesn't come across like that.

      I liked certain things about this one and am not sorry to have read it (I always admire when authors use "new" ways to tell an iconic tale) but beyond that I probably won't read this again.

      The cover IS gorgeous, Renee. You are right. I love its design; hope you enjoy if you read the book, Renee! Fans of her prior novels will, I am sure, enjoy this one. :)

  2. I've read her first two books, and I own the third one but haven't read it yet. I really enjoy them because I love fairy tales and the romances are sweet, and I like the fact that she sort of roots them in a historical time period. But they're not perfect...I definitely know what you mean about them sometimes seeming too modern. And sometimes the writing style seems a bit reminds me of my writing from back when I used to do NaNoWriMo (and that's not really a good thing :). But like I said, I can usually overlook that. I'm sure I'll get around to reading this one sometime!

    1. I'm glad you don't mind the minor flaws, Kristin. That's always wonderful; I am like that with some books also. As I said, I don't mind that I read this, but it didn't become an instant favorite.

      Oh, good! I'm so glad someone else understands what I was attempting to say about the modern/historical aspects. I was trying to peg down just what it was I didn't love about the novel and that is what came to mind. It's always nice to know you aren't the only one to have certain perspectives. :)

      LOL, I'm right there with you! I look back at some of my old scribblings and cringe. It's just awful. Every day, I hope I'm getting a little bit better. Good luck with NaNo (if you are participating this go-round), Kristin; I know so many who spend November in writing mode because of that. ;)

      Hope you enjoy The Captive Maiden! :)

  3. Oh, I'm really disappointed. I was sure this one would get a rave review from you. (I'm not disappointed in you, Rissi--in the book, in the book!!!) I have it on my reading list because I've heard her other books were really good, but. . . . SIGH.

    1. To be honest, Hannah, I am sure if readers liked her other novels they'll like this one. I've not read any of Melanie's novels so this was my first experience with her writing and for me, I don't think it suited my reading habits. I am not sorry to have rad it though.

      I'd be interested to know what you think if you ever read it, Hannah - particularly coming from a newbie of Melanie's novels. :)

  4. Sounds like I'll pass but I loved your review.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read it, Juju! These are always the hardest ones, but it's very good too since it challenges a writer/reader. :)

  5. Glad you enjoyed this one! It's definitely towards the top of my (ever-extensive) to-read list. Love the cover especially. :)

    1. That cover IS gorgeous, Charity. It's my favorite (cover-wise) of the series, too.

      Hope you can read the book soon. :)


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