Monday, September 29, 2014

The Captive Maiden (Hagenheim)

Title: The Captive Maiden

Series: Hagenheim (Book #4)

Year: 2013

Author: Melanie Dickerson

Summary: Gisela's childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father's death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela meets the duke's son, Valten--the boy she has daydreamed about for years--and learns he is throwing a ball, she vows to attend, even if it's only for a taste of a life she'll never have. To her surprise, she catches Valten's eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Gisela Mueller
~ Valten, Earl of Hamlin

Review: On the whole, I can't say that I'm overly pleased with all of Melanie Dickerson's books. Some of them present a fresh take on the old-fashioned fairy tales we all know and love, yet they almost have a cliche taste to them. I'll save reviews for the other books later (I'm hoping to get around to reviewing them all one day), but let's see what I've got for The Captive Maiden, Melanie's retelling of Cinderella. The good and the bad. Ready?

First of all, I did enjoy the whole of the tournaments. Charles Perrault's original Cinderella tale shows our little cinder girl going, not to one, but three balls, and Melanie Dickerson kept that alive in her three tournaments, adding a ball in at the end to wrap everything up. My favorite scenes were probably those in which Valten mounted Seiger and got hammered at with lance and sword in the tournaments. The action was paced nicely, and the descriptions almost made me feel like I was there. Plus? Definitely.

Gisela... well, I wrestled with my feelings for her. Having just written my own Cinderella retelling (Secret of the Hazel Tree, once I get around to publishing it), I'm quite in love with all things cinders, so I was determined to like Gisela from the start. And at the start, she did not disappoint. She was riding horses, standing up to bullies in the street, and quite a different take on the usual timid Cinderella. I was so happy. And then she met Valten and became... (how to put this?) ... annoying. She lost most of her spunk and ended the book as a weeping damsel in distress. Mind, I don't like the modern I-can-do-anything-a-man-can-do heroine, and Gisela wasn't, yet I thought her character development could have been bettered. Valten was an interesting hero, to say in the least. But after a while, he annoyed me, too. The author emphasized the point that he wasn't a ladies' man, and he didn't know what to do when around them. Yes, that point was perhaps made a little too clear. I got tired of hearing how he didn't know what to say to Gisela and how he wasn't like his brother Gabe.

The minor characters were excellent. I loved Ava and wished there could have been more of her in the novel. Even Gisela's stepfamily were well written. When Gisela becomes competition to her wishes of a marriage with the duke's son to her daughter, the stepmother sells Gisela off to a not very nice man to get her out of the way - stab at Ever After? I think so. {highlight previous for spoilers} There was a lot of captures and chases going on, and I find I have to echo another reviewer (Jaye Knight on Goodreads) who said that the characters escaped multiple times only to be recaptured. While I understand how it was important to the story, it got old the more times it happened. Personally, I would have liked to see other obstacles rather just another recapture hinder our daring characters. 

Advisory: Some violence as tournaments and kidnappings take place; one character breaks a bone and gets it set; but nothing is described in an overly graphic tone. 

Also, the romance. While nothing got out of hand, I grew quickly irritated with the number of times the word "kiss" was mentioned in the novel. The characters seemed to dwell on thoughts of kissing and actually kissing a lot, and I found it awkward. Especially between two characters who were not married. Sorry, folks, but there's more to love than smooching. While I did appreciate the fact that the author did put in mentions of their falling in love with each other's personalities (i.e. he/she was brave, fierce, etc.), I did not enjoy the "bulging muscles" comments. 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy The Captive Maiden on Amazon!

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