Review of “The Princess Spy” (Hagenheim #5) by Melanie Dickerson

Dickerson, Melanie. The Princess Spy. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. 

Paperback | $12.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0310730989 | 293 pages | YA Historical Romance

2.5 stars

Melanie Dickerson’s Hagenheim books have a tendency to be okay at best, and very much marketed either to the Christian and/or teen demographic. And this one is much the same in that regard, although even by those standards, it is unfortunately the worst.

I have mixed feelings on her choice of fairy tale for this story, and how she diverged from it. While I can’t say it is the best retelling of “the Frog Prince,” in that, unlike other books in the series, it sheds many of the plot elements of the story, and the story itself is pretty contingent on the presence of magic, which the series does not have, I did not find it a huge negative. It definitely gave the Margaretha and Colin more to do, although I find myself, much like I did with The Captive Maiden. wishing she hadn’t set up the precedent of having each book based on a classic fairy tale, as I once again found the plot elements that were original to Dickerson much more interesting than her half-hearted attempts to include references to the original, this time even more so. I could have done without the attempt to tie in Colin being a frog by dressing him up in green clothing while he is in disguise in Hagenheim, or him rescuing Margaretha’s bracelet, because both had little bearing on the actual story.

The characters are also typical Dickerson in that there isn’t a lot of depth to them, and they are generally perfect. I could deal with that for the most part, as I want characters who are competent if the story is going to be heavy on action. But there are no internal flaws, and it is even worse in this case by the over-emphasis on a somewhat petty flaw of Margaretha’s: talking too much. While a discussion question at the end seems to suggest this might have been an issue in a historical context, this isn’t well substantiated in the text, aside from Colin calling her a “flibbertigibbet.”

And this segues into another issue I had with the book: the silly misunderstandings and resulting angst over feelings, indicating the audience it is likely meant for is definitely on the younger side. While I can understand leaving home is not an easy decision, in any time period, this was the only issue I felt there was any grounds for a misunderstanding, and even then, it could have been resolved through communication, instead of obsessing over it.

That being said, I have for the most part enjoyed most of Dickerson’s work, and will be continuing with the remaining books in the series to see where she takes it next. I would recommend it to Dickerson fans, especially those who can overlook some of the issues I brought up.

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