Title: The Warrior Maiden
Series: Hagenheim (Book #9)
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Summary: Mulan isn’t afraid to pretend to be a son and assume her father’s soldier duties in war. But what happens when the handsome son of a duke discovers her secret?
Mulan is trying to resign herself to marrying the village butcher for the good of her family, but her adventurous spirit just can’t stand the thought. At the last minute, she pretends to be the son her father never had, assumes his duties as a soldier, and rides off to join the fight to protect the castle of her liege lord’s ally from the besieging Teutonic Knights.
Wolfgang and his brother Steffan leave Hagenheim with several other soldiers to help their father’s ally in Poland. When they arrive, Wolfgang is exasperated by the young soldier Mikolai who seems to either always be one step away from disaster... or showing Wolfgang up in embarrassing ways.
When Wolfgang discovers his former rival and reluctant friend Mikolai is actually a girl, he is determined to protect her. But battle is a dangerous place where anything can happen — and usually does.
When Mulan receives word that her mother has been accused of practicing witchcraft through her healing herbs and skills, Mulan’s only thought is of defending her. Will she be able to trust Wolfgang to help? Or will sacrificing her own life be the only way to save her mother?
Review: After a bunch of Dickerson books that weren't so great and regretfully cliche, The Warrior Maiden was a breath of fresh air. I was a bit skeptical going into this book, but once I got into it, I was hooked. The one thing you want in a good Mulan tale (a tale of a girl dressing as a man and going to WAR) is battle scenes. And we got battle scenes. I was sooooo impressed.
Mulan is the illegitimate child of a soldier and a foreign mother. Her father's wife, the woman she calls mother, has raised her and loved her, and Mulan would do anything to protect her. After a priest prophecies that she will be a great warrior one day, Mulan begins training with her father's young friend, Andrei, who accompanied the great Mikolai into many battles and knows how a soldier should act.
Disaster strikes when her father dies two weeks before being conscripted into service again. Forced with the possibility of losing their home, Mulan takes his place, with Andrei at her side. She knows pretending to be a man is a dangerous position, not only because battles can be deadly and because they're going to face the bloodthirsty Teutonic Knights, but also because the Church forbids a woman from dressing as a man.
She earns quick repute among her fellow soldiers when she leads a successful attack on the Teutonic Knights. The duke of Hagenheim's son, Wolfgang, at first feels threatened by her apparent prowess in archery, but soon learns to accept and trust her as a fellow soldier.
The character of Mulan was spot-on. She's fierce and brave, but still feminine in her own right. Melanie Dickerson really made me believe that she was a real person. Mulan loves her mother, and she's incredibly loyal to her. Her fighting skills are incredibly believable, and I loved that (FOR ONCE) she didn't get kidnapped!
I wasn't crazy about Wolfgang, but he's a good-enough hero, once you can get behind him. Mulan really stole the spotlight. Andrei was great, and I wish there could have been more of him. I actually really liked Wolfgang's brother, Steffan, and the complexity that he added to the story. Really looking forward to reading more of him in Dickerson's next novel The Piper's Pursuit (a Pied Piper retelling), and I'm hoping she doesn't water him down too much to become the next Hagenheim hero.
The whole historical aspect of this novel was super interesting. Mulan must keep her secret of dressing as a man because it's against Church law for a woman to wear men's clothing. And then you've got the whole angle of her mother creating a special healing salve that people think could be demonic, and how THAT all plays into the story. Dickerson really pulled out all the stops to impress me with this one.
The religious language and preaching in this book seemed a bit heavier than Dickerson usually does, but it didn't bother me. Since so much of the plot is dependent on Church laws and tradition, I didn't think it was terribly overdone. I had a lengthy talk with a history expert/snob about the book once I was done reading it, and we agreed that most of the historical details in this novel were really well done. (Teutonic Knights for the win!) Except for the Church's Trial by Combat. I'm sorry; for that, I really think Dickerson just wanting to write another dramatic jousting scene. So, it's really cool, but (in my opinion) stretching the historical accuracy a little too far.
Advisory: One of the things that did kinda annoy me was the romance. But as usual, for a Dickerson novel. It doesn't take Mulan to be attracted to our hero, and once he discovers her secret, he's fairly quickly attracted to her. They think an awful lot about kissing each other before it actually happens, and then they share a number of kisses before the book ends.
Fighting/violence. Since there are battles and sieges, people are injured and killed, but nothing is too terribly descriptive.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars