Review of “The Captive Maiden” (Hagenheim #4) by Melanie Dickerson

Dickerson, Melanie. The Captive Maiden. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013. 

Paperback | $12.99 USD | ISBN-13; 978-0310724414 | Christian Fiction/Historical Romance 

3 stars

My interest in her Hagenheim series tapered off after initially reading the first three ages ago, particularly as a Cinderella retelling seemed odd coming directly after a Snow White retelling (a similarity that the characters in the book acknowledge). But Melanie Dickerson never left my radar completely, and my interest (and skepticism) was piqued with the release of her Aladdin retelling, which compelled me to go back and read this one, as that one also follows the family of Willhelm and Rose, unlike the prior installment, The Silent Songbird, which was a stand alone.

And like many of Dickerson’s books, I find myself liking some things, but finding some of the same issues as before. On the plus side, I enjoyed seeing Valten as the hero. He is the opposite of his charming brother Gabe, and I find it refreshing to read about a hero who isn’t so sure of himself with women, but has his heart in the right place. I also loved his interactions with his family, and I look forward to seeing more of them in the next few books.

However, Gisela is one of those heroines who I often hear about in Christian fiction who seem a bit too perfect. She’s beautiful, kind, and brave in the face of adversity, but I didn’t find that her personality was rounded out with many discernible flaws, other than the fact that she’s a bit too trusting of people she really shouldn’t trust to begin with. And I honestly felt if some of the Cinderella aspects were toned down, it wouldn’t have made much difference, as the stepmother and stepsisters just seemed to go through the motions of being bad, especially since they were secondary to the main villain.

However, I did enjoy the writing of Ruexner and how his backstory was revealed. At first, he seemed like a standard villain without much in the way of layers or substance, but I liked the subtle hints that built up to the big reveal of his fixation with Gisela, rooted in deep personal issues. While it is not exactly an original background for the villain, I did feel like it added more substance to him in a way I did not expect, especially given the revelation.

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