Monday, October 10, 2011

The Healer's Apprentice

Title: The Healer’s Apprentice
Category: Historical, Christian
Grades: 7-10
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Publisher: Zondervan
Date: 2010
Pages: 257

Peasant lass Rose has been offered an apprenticeship to the village healer, a wonderful opportunity to help her impoverished family and avoid marriage to an elderly or cruel suitor.  Terrified she will be dismissed, Rose tries to hide her fear and nausea at the sight of blood or illness.  Alone when hunters stagger in with the wounded Duke’s son, Wilhelm, Rose must overcome her unease and quickly.  Wilhelm, a wealthy and darkly handsome noble, is surprisingly easy to talk to, and soon becomes a regular visitor to the healer’s apprentice.  While Rose is flattered by the attention, Wilhelm is already betrothed to a mysterious and absent young duchess, who was hidden away by her parents to protect her from an evil conjuror.  Though Wilhelm’s heart is already promised, his brother Rupert’s is not, and the younger noble soon takes an interest in Rose as well.  Again, Rose is flattered; though Rupert has a reputation as a “ladies’ man,” she begins to believe perhaps his feelings for her are the true ones.  Perhaps she can learn to love him; perhaps being in Wilhelm’s family and being able to see him will be enough.  Only time will tell, but it is running out, for soon Wilhelm’s bride will be home.

For what it is, a young adult Christian historical novel, Healer’s Apprentice is a fairly standard example.  It follows the pattern of most novels of its type, succeeds at not being preachy, attempts to ward off predictability, and has decently developed characters and a nice plot.  For readers who enjoy this particular “light romance” type of read, it will probably not disappoint.  As serious fiction, however, the book has some fatal flaws.  While the author attempts to throw readers off of the obvious conclusions and leave them surprised, it does not really succeed – it ends exactly as we expected it to, with exactly the “surprises” we saw coming in the first few chapters.  My primary issue with this storyline was that of believability.  I might possibly believe that one noble took a fancy to a lowly peasant girl, ignored his family’s disapproval and fell soundly in love with her.  To believe that not only did this happen, but that two noble brothers fought like yowling dogs over the lowly peasant girl, but that their noble sister had nothing better to do with her day than seek out the same peasant girl and find things for them to do, is substantially more difficult.  However, to those who are willing to suspend disbelief and enjoy happy endings, the book may prove to be an enjoyable diversion.


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