The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson

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From the book: “Sophie has long wished to get away from her stepmother’s jealous anger, and believes escape is her only chance to be happy. Then a young man named Gabe arrives from Hagenheim Castle, claiming she is betrothed to his older brother, and everything twists upside down. This could be her chance at freedom—but can she trust another person to keep her safe?

“Gabe knows he defied his parents Rose and Wilhelm by going to find Sophie, and now he believes they had a right to worry: the orphan girl has stolen his heart. Though romance is impossible—she is his brother’s future wife, and Gabe himself is betrothed to someone else—he promises to himself he will keep her safe, no matter what.

“When the pair are forced to run to the Cottage of the Seven, they find help—but also find their feelings for each other have grown. Can they find a way to protect Sophie while also safeguarding their hearts?”

This was a sweetly-told story, perfect for young ladies. Dickerson managed to stir together a lovely blend of not too much Disney and not too much Grimm. Sweet, but not saccharine; adventurous, but not dark, The Fairest Beauty is a wonderful retelling of the classic fairy tale. And it’s a story that I would gladly share with my god-daughter (and god-son, although he might think it was too “girly” 🙂 ), since it teaches some marvelous lessons about self-control and dependence on God.

If you’re a fan of fairy tales, check out Melanie Dickerson’s reimagined versions. They are pleasant reads, filled with the hope and goodness of God.

The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe & Jerry B. Jenkins

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Avery’s thirteenth birthday didn’t go exactly as she’d planned – after all, that was the day she was kidnapped by and old woman. The woman has taken her to the castle, where Avery is dropped off to hide in the unused areas of the castle with all of the orphaned thirteen-year-olds of the kingdom. There, Avery learns that even beautiful castles hold dark secrets. Desperate to escape and find her little brother and her father, Avery will need to uncover those darkest secrets and find the strength hiding in herself.

I had no idea what to expect when I started this story. I recognized the authors – Trisha White Priebe from A Sherlock Holmes Devotional – which I really like – and Jerry B. Jenkins from the Left Behind series (of course), as well as books like Riven and I, Saul. Honestly, the authors were why I decided to give this one a go. I didn’t realize how wrapped up in the story I would get…but it happened! It turned out to be a great coming-of-age fairy tale with well-crafted, interesting characters and enough mystery to keep you thoroughly engaged.

I would highly recommend this story to a wide variety of readers. As an adult, I definitely enjoyed it, and I can imagine that the target audience (middle grade youths) would relish it just as much. My only disappointment? The sequel (The Ruby Moon) doesn’t come out until the Fall of 2016!

Many thanks to Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for the free copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

The Thaw Series by E. Kaiser Writes

Thaw  WCh promo E. Kaiser Writes has done a lovely job retelling the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the Snow Queen. In the first installment of the series, Thaw: Winter’s Child, we are introduced to the royal family of Noran, where the king and queen long to have a child to call their own. They are blessed by the Winter Angel with just such a child, although their beautiful daughter, Ilise, has a secret. As she and her younger sister, Girthild, grow, the family discovers that Ilise can make ice and snow appear at will, but that she can’t seem to make them disappear. So, for her protection, they have her live in the tower, away from anyone she could accidentally harm, while her father tries to find a way to help her.

Thaw: Winter’s Child provides a very good lesson, given by the Stone King, in intentionality – meaning to do something versus not meaning to – and in the propensity for people to blame circumstances or other people for their own poor choices. This story could be a great way to foster discussion with children about these issues, and I would recommend it for that reason.

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In the second installment of E. Kaiser Writes’ Thaw series, Winter Queen, the story picks up where it left off in Winter’s Child. Ilise and Girta are orphaned when their parents are lost at sea. Then the story jumps ahead seven years to the coronation of Queen Ilise. Hess (whom we were introduced to in the first book), a prince of Noran’s neighbor Demargen, arrives as an ambassador to witness the coronation and meets Girta. Both are young and naïve and fancy themselves in love, and their announcement frightens Ilise into showing her curse to the world. She flees in embarrassment, creating a domino effect that ends with Hess attempting to murder her and being sent home to Demargen in chains.

As with the first book of the series, Winter Queen is also chock full of great lessons, such as how one simple choice, naively made, can create a ripple effect that touches more shores than you could have ever imagined. The Stone King (he is definitely my favorite character in the series) again gives a wonderful lesson, this time in the importance of controlling your emotions. Again, I could easily picture parents using this story as away to open discussions that could have lasting impacts on their children and would recommend it.

Thaw PrD promoAnd in the third installment of the Thaw series, Prince of Demargen, the reader learns of the consequences of Hess’s actions and how he tries to deal with them. Hess’s family, out of love, duty, and their own sense of responsibility for his actions, chooses to strip him of his royal title, disinherit him, and exile him from Demargen. He wanders the countryside looking for ways to keep himself and his horse, Tompte, fed and housed, getting into one scrape after another and being more humbled with each passing day. When he stoops so low as to steal, he finally realizes there is something wrong and sets about trying to rid himself of the Burning Greed that has gripped his heart. In the end, he finds that the only one who can help him is the one who is least likely to – the queen he tried to kill.

More lessons are learned in this story – how greed can corrupt every molecule of our bodies, why it usually takes a great fall into a pile of humility before we can know what it is to be honorable, and how truly powerful forgiveness is for everyone. I will admit that there were times while reading this particular story that I wished it would move along a bit faster, but when I got to the end, I realized that each piece was necessary for the overall story to come together. The lessons are valuable enough to override the sometimes slow-moving story and occasional grammatical errors. It was, all-in-all, a well-told story with a morally sound message.

I truly think that this series could be a wonderful tool for Christian homeschooling, reading aloud to younger readers or independent reading for those more advanced. First of all, each chapter ends with a set of discussion questions which help readers to focus on the story and its connections to the world and themselves. And with the popularity of the Disney movie, Frozen, and access to Hans Christian Andersen’s, as well as others’, versions of the tale, the lesson possibilities are practically endless.

E. Kaiser Writes contacted me through Goodreads and graciously provided me with copies of her books for review purposes. I was not required to give positive reviews. All opinions are my very own!