Have I mentioned how much I love a good fairy-tale adaptation? Maybe once? (Or twice? Or a million times?). The Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson is both a fairy-tale adaptation and historical fiction. Instead of having a magical, unreal setting, this novel strives to be realistic and adapts the tale to (mostly) fit the needs of the real world. So the story is set in 1386, Hagenheim, Lower Saxony.
Rose, the daughter of a woodcutter, is apprenticed to the town’s healer, Frau Geruscha. She is hoping to avoid being pushed into an unsavory marriage by her mother, and although she is deeply uncomfortable with the sight of blood, Rose is hoping to escape marriage by becoming the next healer. Her new position at Hagenheim Castle is one she respects and appreciates. It also means she is more frequently in contact with the Duke’s two sons – Wilhelm (Lord Hamlin), and his younger brother Rupert. They are both drawn to Rose by her beauty and she is somewhat torn between them.
The situation is complicated by the fact that Wilhelm is betrothed – though he has never even met his intended. His future wife, Salomea, has been hidden away by her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Marienberg in an attempt to protect her from the evil outcast pagan conjuror, Moncore who has vowed to enact his revenge on their daughter.
So, you have a love triangle and a mystery (Where is Salomea? Who is she?) which keep things interesting and the pace fast. The tension that Wilhelm struggles with (because his heart is not free, given that he is bound in an engagement to a girl he’s never met) feels very real. As an honorable person, Rose feels that tension also.
I LOVED both Wilhelm and Rose. I loved how Rose was strong and true to herself and her morals/values. I loved all the hints along the way about what was going to happen. (The story was VERY predictable, but then again, it IS an adaptation of maybe my favourite fairy tale: Sleeping Beauty). I loved the realistic flavour of the story.
My only complaint feels like it shouldn’t even be something I complain about. Being historical fiction, set in Saxon, obviously religion is a big deal / central to people’s lives. As I am not religious, I skimmed over many of the prayers and Bible references. It’s true to the time period, but it was a bit of a sour note for me. Especially because the bad guy, Moncore, is claiming to deal in Demons. If you’re going to be going for realism, I just don’t think that descriptions of demons fit. There is a rational explanation for those scenes, or there could be, but I felt a little bit let down by the God vs. Demons thing. That being said, I didn’t think that the references to God spoilt the story for me overall.
A good 4 / 5. 🙂