Sunday, January 10, 2021

Review: Court of Swans by Melanie Dickerson

A blessed Sunday! Normally, I don't post here on this day of the week, but this tale, as a Christian read, does slide right, I have such a tight schedule! Why are there so many great books out there....and why don't I have more time to get to every single one? 

So today, I'm making one of my exceptions and have a lovely, historical based, fairy tale retelling for you. It just came out this last week, too. 

The Dericott Tales, #1
by Melanie Dickerson
Thomas Nelson
YA Historical Fiction / Religious
336 pages

From New York Times bestselling author Melanie Dickerson comes a reimagining of the Wild Swans—the first book in a new series of fairy-tale retellings set in medieval England!

Delia lives a quiet life as the daughter of an earl in late 14th-century England, but that peace is shattered when her seven brothers are betrayed by their father and falsely arrested. Meanwhile, with the Peasants’ Revolt threatening the peace of the kingdom, the king is executing anyone who had anything to do with the uprising. Delia is terrified her brothers will be next, the youngest of whom is only ten years old.

Delia infiltrates the palace as a lady-in-waiting for the new queen so she can be near her brothers in the Tower of London and help them escape. When she runs into Sir Henry, the guard captain who arrested her brothers, she hates him—until she discovers he has been secretly carrying food to her brothers in their prison cell.

Trapped into obeying the orders of his king, Sir Henry is the oldest son of an earl whose estate has been seized by the king and his treacherous advisers. His first mission as captain was to arrest seven brothers for treason, but he had no idea that the brothers were so young or that their sister would be so feisty and beautiful.

In a court where everyone is eager to backstab anyone else to get what they want, how will Henry right this wrong and help Delia and her brothers—especially when Delia hates him? And how will he keep them both from losing their heads to this execution-prone king?

                                                   *  Fairy Tale retelling - but not overly obvious
                                                   *  Rich, historical world with mention of historical figures
                                                   *  fast-paced plot
                                                   *  realistic settings 
                                                   *  religious references/attitudes woven in
                                                   * royalty


Set between earls, ladies, kings and knights, this is a fairy tale retelling which snuggles in to a more realistic, historical world while plunging into a world of royal intrigue.

Delia is the only daughter in a household with seven brothers, all who are in various levels of training to be knights. Her step-mother is a difficult person but not impossible to deal with until their father dies. Not long after his grave has been covered, the king's knights arrive and arrest all seven brothers for treason, although the youngest is only ten years old. Knowing they are innocent of all charges and determined to save them from being executed, Delia sneaks away from her home and hides as a maid in the king's court. But helping her brothers is even more difficult than she ever imagined as she slowly uncovers more secrets and discovers that more than one person is weaving their own plans to gain money and power.

This is a very interesting tale, which weaves in wonderful ways, promising tension, emotions and a quick-pacing all the way through. I suspected that this one might slightly turn in a fantasy direction as a fairy tale retelling...but it remains solid in the historical fiction genre. And that's a good thing. The world is rich, the characters layered, and there's even a touch of true moments from history. On that end, it's a real treat.

There is a lot going on in these pages, and Delia has quite the adventure waiting for her. While I did read this one all the way through, however, I found myself skipping through paragraphs every now and then. I wanted to know what happened to Delia and her brothers (and her romantic interest), so for me, the tale is worth a read. But it also kept the characters and events an arm's length away thanks to the fact that most of the story came across as a telling and didn't allow the reader to really experience or see everything happen. The dialogue and a few scenes play out, but many others are treated as quick information with a glimpse into Delia's thoughts of what happens. There was so much that could have (and I think, should have) been built out, which would have made this a book impossible to lay down. Of course, that also would have meant two or three novels, but there is so much going on, that it would have been worth the exploration.

This is a religious read, and I enjoyed how the author wove this naturally into the tale. Delia prays and declares her trust to God without ever coming across as forcing it. It flows right in with her character and also fits the time period nicely. Even her brothers, when they are facing horrible prospects, mention their faith and prayer, but never dwell on it excessively or make it stick out. It's simply a part of who they are and, as said, actually slides right in with how people of that time might have thought.

Fans of historical fiction, royal intrigue, tension, and building romance, who also appreciate the Christian lean will enjoy this one.

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