Monday, August 8, 2016

Review - The Healer's Apprentice

Original Title: The Healer's Apprentice
Series: Hagenheim, #1
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Published: September 10, 2010

Publisher: Zondervan


I wanted to like this book. I really did, having marked it as to-read so many years ago. But sadly, I couldn’t.

It had, however, good things. The setting is beautiful, and every scene feels like a painting. The whole ballroom scene, with the banners, the food, the dancing, the dresses… Everything is so well researched, that it’s a pleasure to read it; I love when the author actually cares for historical accuracy, and does the necessary research to give a correct background to the story. The scenes in the forest, in the meadow, and by the stream, with the flowers, the sounds and the colours… It’s truly gorgeous, and it’s great work. Bravo!

But… Well, to the not so nice part. When you find yourself rolling your eyes for the fifth time, then something is happening. There were so many maddening things in this story… And not in the good way. Rose, the heroine –the healer’s apprentice, and a woodcutter’s daughter– felt most of the time like a cardboard character, because she doesn’t appear to have faults. She makes mistakes, as any other human being, but her naivety sometimes is too much. In, literally, EVERY CHAPTER, you found at least one line with the word “tears” on it. Look:

- “Her heart swelled as she blinked back tears.” (Chapter 2).
- “…she could feel the tears damming behind her eyes.” (Chapter 10).
- “Rose blinked back tears.” (Chapter 12).
- “Rose felt the tears prick her eyes as she spoke those last three words.” (Chapter 16).
- “The tears came on stronger than ever.” (also Chapter 16).

Do I need to say more? Everything was a reason for Rose to cry, to bit back her tears, blink them away, have them wiped away, or swallow the lump in her throat. The book has 28 chapters, and Rose cries in 26 of them. It’s just too much. Is she supposed to be a heroine? I couldn't stand her attitude, her naivety almost bordering stupidity. She's beautiful, she's a talented storyteller, she's a bad healer... But what else? What does she do for her own life, except crying for every possible situation? Maybe it is me, but I think a heroine needs to be strong, and take the reins of her own life, to deserve the word. 

The love story was sweet, and had its heart-warming moments –like the first I love you–, I give it that. It is love at first sight, which starts the moment Rose tends Lord Hamlin’s leg wound, caused by a wild boar. But, again, their attitude was maddening! They love each other, something that grows with every encounter, and he wants to hold her, and kiss her, and be with her forever… But they can’t, because of his responsibilities as the heir of the duchy, towards his family, his betrothed and his people, because it is wrong to love a mere healer’s apprentice, because nothing should happen between them. And they say so WAY TOO MUCH. All the time thinking about what shouldn’t happen between them, scolding themselves for thinking this or that about each other (which, believe me, it’s far too innocent to be considered inappropriate). Being Christian myself, I know about the sins of a relationship out of wedlock, but this was just too much. Apparently, only touching each other’s fingers is a sin too, and there it went my fourth of fifth eye-roll. I mean, come on!

As for the intended surprises of this story, I saw them coming from miles away. I knew instantly that Rose was Lady Salomea the moment I read her mother –the woodcutter’s wife– was kind and loving with her other children, but not with her. And it was obvious that Peter Brunckhorst was Moncore. And please, as much as it seemed Rose was going to marry Rupert, I didn’t believe it for a second. I hate to call a book predictable, but that’s what it was. Sorry.

Plus, there were things that I thought, hid something behind. Like Lord Hamlin's leg wound, I thought, "They are saying a boar did it so they don't ask question, because Hamlin has been doing something illegal, or considered dark, or unholy"; but no, an actual boar did it. And when they go to find Moncore's friend, Dietmar, and one of the knights visits him to know where he went, I said "I'm sure this is a trap; he's going to lie, or the conjurer himself is waiting for them to finish them off"; but no, Dietmar actually gave them the true information to where Moncore had gone. *Eye roll again*. There was potential to add some action to the story, but they end up wasted.

Rose being Lady Salomea was like the oh-so-casual happy ending! Suddenly, all the things they spent the whole book saying that shouldn’t happen, are possible. In a way, it was a really, really sweet happy ending. Rose finally met her real parents, discovered her royal blood, got dressed beautifully as a princess, and she and Lord Hamlin finally kissed freely, all elation and laughter. But they managed to ruin even that lovely moment, with this: 

She fingered the velvet mantle at his neck. Leaning her head back to look at him, she noticed the lock of dark hair that always fell across his forehead. She reached up to touch it, running her fingers through it. She saw the passionate look in his eyes and pressed her face into his neck, a stab of guilt going through her for the way her body was reacting.

“I don’t think we should kiss any more tonight.”

*Rolling eyes for the hundredth time”. 

COME ON!! People, you’re finally together, after loving each other so much and being so close to lose each other (death, sickness, demons, even the rogue, libertine brother…), and you think it is too much to hug and [barely] touch each other’s hair! His hair! Rose, you did worse with Lord Rupert, and you didn’t even love him! Apparently, hugging him out of wedlock is a potential sin, like if they were going to immediatly sleep together just because of that!

This book exaggerates with the sins against God. Not everything is a sin, guys! I wanted to yell that to Rose and Hamlin all the time. And, although I’m Christian myself, as I said before, this book had way too many prayers. I have nothing against them, as long as they don’t appear all the time, and become more present than the dialogue between the characters. I like characters of action, that don’t sit there to wait for things to happen… And that seemed to be Rose and Wilhelm’s case more than once. They love each other, but they don’t fight for their love. Things simply get completely solved at the end, and oh, what a coincidence! Rose was Lord Hamlin’s betrothed the whole time, and they married, and lived happily ever after! 

I’m truly sorry for saying such things about a book, but I needed to be honest. It’s not, however, a final, definitive NO to other books by this author. I’m willing to give her another chance, anytime one of her books is randomly picked from my new to-read jar. I hope it gets better.


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