October 18, 2013 11 Comments

‘THE CAPTIVE MAIDEN,’ BY MELANIE DICKERSON. Review of the 2013 fairytale fantasy YA novel from Zondervan. All text © Rissi JC

There’s something comforting in experiencing a retelling of a beloved piece of literature, no matter the form. Dozens of writer’s have taken on the task of doing this very thing. No one in the world of Christian fiction is a more familiar name than Melanie Dickerson. As she already did Snow White and Beauty & the Beast, she most recently takes on Cinderella.


STORY: This version introduces us to the kind but ill-treated Gisela. Ridiculed by her stepsisters and stepmother since her father’s death, they treat Gisela s 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?

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The Captive Maiden, by Melanie Dickerson | Book Review

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 had the opinion that I’d love it already considering rave reviews, and a love of all things fairytale. Indeed the book starts out really well; I instantly like Gisela, and how the meeting between she and Valten plays out. In this version, there’s no expectation or worry over when and how Valten will discover Gisela (Cinderella) lies to him. 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” as a result. Sadly, I am not sure I can say there is much else I like about the book.

Of course, the costuming descriptions were lovely and there were some “exciting” moments. Page after page chronicles jousting matches switching off from Gisela’s worry and Valten’s thoughts and in my opinion this grows wearisome. Especially as Gisela doesn’t know Valten beyond a child’s memory. Though I do realize there has to be some leeway since this is a fairytale. I think what makes the reading more painful is there’s too many mash-ups between “contemporary” and historical. (This is especially true of the more modern dialogue.) Because of these impressions, this doesn’t wind up 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.

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

About the Book:

(Disclosure: this post does contain affiliate links; if you buy anything through these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Thank you to anyone who makes a purchase through these links. Read the disclosure page for details.)

Author: Melanie Dickerson
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication Date: November 2013
Find the Review Elsewhere: Amazon | Goodreads | WordPress
Shop the Book: Bookshop.org | Goodreads
Series: Fairy Tales – book 4
Genre: Fiction; Young Adult/Teen, Fantasy
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 

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

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.

Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.

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  • Renee (SteelerGirl83) October 18, 2013 at 3:47 PM

    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!

    • Rissi October 18, 2013 at 11:51 PM

      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. :)

  • Kristin October 18, 2013 at 6:30 PM

    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 awkward….it 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!

    • Rissi October 19, 2013 at 12:09 AM

      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! :)

  • Hannah Barta October 18, 2013 at 10:29 PM

    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.

    • Rissi October 19, 2013 at 12:00 AM

      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. :)

  • Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com October 19, 2013 at 2:35 AM

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

    • Rissi October 23, 2013 at 2:37 AM

      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. :)

  • Charity U October 31, 2013 at 4:59 AM

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

    • Rissi October 31, 2013 at 8:58 PM

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

      Hope you can read the book soon. :)

  • […] into these because the style of The Princess in the Opal Mask reminds me a great deal of her novel The Captive Maiden. With exception to a slow start, this novel is quite good as well as preferring the writing over […]

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