Thursday, November 6, 2014

REVIEW: THE FAIREST BEAUTY ~ MELANIE DICKERSON

Sophie desperately wants to get away from her stepmother's jealousy, 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 Sophie's one chance at freedom—but can she trust another person to keep her safe?

Gabe defied his parents Rose and Wilhelm by going to find Sophie, and now he believes they had a right to worry: the girl's inner and outer beauty has enchanted him. Though romance is impossible—she is his brother's future wife, and Gabe himself is betrothed to someone else—he promises himself he will see the mission through, no matter what.

When the pair flee to the Cottage of the Seven, they find help—but also find their feelings for each other have grown. Now both must not only protect each other from the dangers around them—they must also protect their hearts.


I hate giving bad reviews. Truly, I take no pleasure in criticizing someone else's efforts - However, I am always truthful in my reviews, and I have to start of by saying this book took me forever to read.  It did not hold my attention, I never became emotionally invested in the outcome and I had to force myself to finish it.  I'm still in the process of trying to retrain my brain to abandon books I don't enjoy, but alas, I still have mild OCD when it comes to finishing what I start.

From the blurb I assume it is understood that this is a retelling of Snow White.  While I usually enjoy a fresh take on a classic, I just did not enjoy this book at all.  This isn't going to be a detailed review, I will just point out what I have a problem with.    First of all, I don't like the characters. Sophie is just way too good to be true.  She is portrayed as this perfect person who memorizes and quotes Scripture, and never sins.  Ever.  She doesn't even harbour ill feelings towards her stepmother who abuses everyone around her. This is just absolutely unrealistic and makes it impossible to relate to Sophie.  As for Gabe, he is portrayed as arrogant and self-indulgent - kind of hard to like a "hero" when the only reason he went to rescue Sophie was to stick it to his brother.  Against his parents' direct instructions and against Valten's wishes, Gabe nevertheless went to find Sophie by himself.  It is expressly stated in the book several times how much joy Gabe gets from being the one to find his brother's fiancee.  Later he tries to convince himself and everyone around him that God placed the desire in his heart and that it must have been God's will for him to be the one to find Sophie. I have a HUGE problem with this approach considering this book is classified as religious fiction.  Please remember, Ms Dickerson, that honour thy father and mother is one of the ten commandments. You can't have your character wilfully disobey his parents for purely selfish reasons and try to justify it by claiming that it was God's will. This can be very confusing for non-believers reading this book as it is a pretty big contradiction. I would rather have had Gabe not try to justify his behaviour at all, admit he did something wrong and learn from it - that would have been more realistic, as well. 

Ermengard (another problem I have is the author using annoying, hard to pronounce names) is a ridiculous villain and I couldn't take her seriously.  She's so pathetic, I questioned the backbone and integrity of the whole cast of characters who allowed her to treat them the way they did.  I also had no respect for Sophie's father who deserted his Kingdom after Ermengard tricked him into believing Sophie had died.  He just up and left, leaving his loyal subjects to be tormented by his evil wife. 

Last, but not least, I did not see any chemistry between Sophie and Gabe.  Their relationship was not believable to me and I had no emotional connection to either of them.  I had developed more feelings towards Valten in the limited time I got to spend with him (ten pages?) than I ever had for either Sophie or Gabe.

Towards the end of the book I just started skipping sections, wanting to reach the end; I even skimmed right over the final confrontation between Sophie and Ermengard (which should have been gripping, right?).  Sadly I just did not enjoy this book at all.


Product Information:
Title: The Fairest Beauty 
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Publisher: Zonderkidz
Year: 2013
Pages: 334
ISBN-10: 0310724392
ISBN-13: 9780310724391

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