In 1386, in Lower Saxony, the crowd awaits the return of the princes from school, and two teenage girls draw the reader into Melanie Dickerson’s story with their innocent dreams and excitement. Rose is apprenticed to the castle healer, Frau Geruscha who learned Latin and herbs in a Catholic convent before moving here to serve the community. Though amply wise and studious, Rose tries to avoid the unpleasant sights and smells of a healer’s business while helping her mistress. Meanwhile her friend dreams of romance and marriage. Author Melanie Dickerson recreates the town and people of Hagenheim very convincingly, portraying an intelligent but illiterate community and a Catholic church awkwardly wedded to the castle and its human lord. Rose’s problems with blood are achingly convincing, and it’s pleasing to see her learn to overcome them a she and the reader learn more of her trade. But bigger issues loom. The older prince captures Rose’s heart, a match that can never be allowed. And the younger prince challenges her for stolen affections. The Healer’s Apprentice is a Christian novel, as becomes apparent about a third of the way in, though references to “conjurers of pagan magic” herald the way much earlier. A message that “God… will make a way for us,” is threaded through a story that slowly grows closer to the familiar fairytale Sleeping Beauty. Daughter of the woodcutter, prince of the realm, the threat of an evil curse… it’s pleasantly satisfying when all the pieces come together. I probably wouldn’t recommend this novel to non-Christians—the timeliness of God’s assistance may not seem so convincing without prior belief. But it’s a lovely period tale, offering a pleasing suggestion that Catholics in olden days were just as deeply Christian, praying just as willingly as any Christians today. And the reminder of God’s faithfulness is always welcome. Disclosure: I can’t remember when I bought this but I’m glad I did.
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About the reviewer
Sheila Deeth (SheilaDeeth)
Sheila Deeth's first novel, Divide by Zero, has just been released in print and ebook formats. Find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, etc. Her spiritual speculative novellas can be found at … more
Rose, a healer’s apprentice in the town of Hagenheim, feels drawn to the duke’s older son, Wilhelm, but he is betrothed to a young noblewoman who has been hidden away for years, ever since she was threatened by an “evil conjurer.” Though her attachment to Wilhelm grows, Rose encourages the suit of his younger brother, Rupert, who begins to amend his rakish ways under her virtuous influence. The story’s outcome is never in doubt, but the lovers endure many setbacks before a fortunate circumstance paves the way for the happy ending. Dickerson creates a sympathetic character in Rose, who has her weaknesses as well as considerable strength of will, morality, and faith. Though references to Christianity are woven through the book, many readers will be surprised by the climactic scene, in which Wilhelm heals Rose by casting out demons in the name of Jesus. Young people looking for Christian fiction as well as a historical romance may enjoy this medieval love story. Grades 7-10. --Carolyn Phelan