Fairy tales are the foundation of storytelling. Many of the books and films we enjoy have their foundations in a fairy tale that was written hundreds of years ago. Most modern fairy tales are retellings of ones that were written in the olden days. Disney films are probably the best-known fairy tale retellings as most of their animated features, such as The Little Mermaid or Frozen, find their origins in classic fairy tales. Film doesn't have a monopoly on fairy tales, though. Novel fairy tale retellings like Ella Enchanted and Cinder are both retellings of Cinderella.
I adore fairy tale retellings, and over the last few years, I have enjoyed reading books written by Melanie Dickerson. She writes fairy tale retellings set in medieval Europe. Sound interesting? So far she has covered common stories like Cinderella and Snow White, as well as more obscure tales like The Frog Princess and Swan Lake. Sometimes she blends classic novel themes in as well.
Today I am reviewing her book, The Beautiful Pretender. It's a mash-up of Beauty and the Beast and The Princess and the Pea, two fun stories. To start, I'll share the official blurb for the book along with the cover.
The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble-born ladies from around the country to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.
Avelina is only responsible for two things: making sure her deception goes undetected and avoiding being selected as the margrave’s bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.
Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences. Will Avelina be able to stop the evil plot? And at what cost?
I should start by saying that I received this book for free as a part of Melanie Dickerson street team. I'm reviewing it for her, but these are my true thoughts.
I think this might be my favorite Melanie Dickerson book so far. I actually enjoyed most things about it, including characters, plot, and the writing. I liked the combination of The Beauty and the Beast and The Princess and the Pea. Those two stories don't seem like they would mesh well, but Dickerson weaves them together wonderfully.
One of my favorite aspects of this story is the characters. Avelina is realistic. She is motivated by the goal to protect her family in the cruel world of medieval Germany. Though a servant, she realizes that she too can fall in love. The Margrave, Reinhart, is a pretty amazing character. He is very much the classic Beast stereotype, but he has a wonderful heart and cares about those he loves to a great degree. Magdalen, a young woman competing to be the Margrave's wife, is a sweet girl that you can't help but root for in her own encounters... and considering she is getting her own story, I'm excited for that.
I liked this plot because it did not stagnate. One adventure followed another rapidly. My interest was kept by the secret tests administered to find the best girls as well as the political intrigue and dangerous thread leading throughout the whole story to culminate at the ending.
Also, the romance. I am not the type of person to go crazy over romance, but there are a few I do enjoy, and the romance in this story was so sweet.
If I had to complain about anything in The Beautiful Pretender, it would be the villains. When you read a Dickerson book, you mustn't expect too many surprises. Some books, like The Golden Braid, by her do have twists, but the stories are somewhat predictable as well. It is usually pretty easy to figure out the villains. Sometimes the villain role might be clearly introduced near the beginning of the story. It isn't the worst thing, but don't expect a surprise reveal for the most part. The previously mentioned The Golden Braid shows a bit more sides to the villains, which is always appreciated. In The Beautiful Pretender, the bad characters are never shown as being good, and you dislike them from the get-go.
Overall, I enjoyed the story, and it is one of my favorite of Dickerson's.
If you enjoy fairy tale retellings, sweet romance, and adventure, I think you will like this story! For a full listing of Melanie Dickerson's stories, check out her website.
What is your favorite fairy tale retelling?