Series: Hagenheim, Book 11
Genres: Romance, Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Retelling, Christian Fiction, Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling
Publication date: July 7, 2021
Adela, the daughter of the Duke of Hagenheim, is rarely allowed outside of the castle walls. But longing for freedom, she sneaks out to the marked disguised as a peasant where she meets a handsom woodcarver named Frederick.
Frederick, a poor farmer, is the sole provider for his family and often his mother’s defender from his father’s drunken rages. He dreams of making a living carving wood and is thrilled when the Bishop of Hagenheim commissions him to carve new doors for the cathedral. As he works on the project, he and Adela meet almost daily and it doesn’t take them long to fall in love. Yet her true identity remains hidden from him.
When disaster separates the two, Adela and Frederick find themselves caught in the midst of a deception far more dangerous than innocent disguises.
“I am spoiled, I suppose.”
“I am used to having everything I need and almost everything I want.”
“You aren’t spoiled. You are loved and blessed. And love is much more important than wealth. If you have to live without wealth, you might have some difficulties, but living without love… that would be tragic indeed.”Chapter 5
As this is a reverse Cinderella retelling, I didn’t think that I’d need to have read the rest of the series before diving into this story. I’d originally hoped to read this story in January as another read for the Buzzword Readathon/Reading Challenge, but the copy from my local library wasn’t available until mid to late March. So, I waited until the book was available and enjoyed the read.
While this was a decent story, I wouldn’t really call it a “Cinderella retelling” per say – or even a reverse retelling. While there was a very brief ball scene, the main Cinderella storyline doesn’t really happen in this story. While there’s nothing to say that a retelling has to stay true to the original – in fact, one of my favourite retellings ever is a twisted story that only follows the original bones of the source material – I still prefer the story to clearly pull from the source material.
It felt more like a traditional Historical YA read than a fairy tale retelling to me, but that’s a personal perspective. Historical fiction isn’t my favourite genre – unless it’s got a fantastical twist or is further broken down into the Steampunk subgenre – which also impacted my enjoyment of the story. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why some people would enjoy the historical aspect of this story. I’m just not the intended audience for this story (no matter how much I thought I was going into this read).
It was a cute story if you’re not trying to force it into the confines of a retelling, but I found the side storylines and characters more compelling than the main plot of this story. While I don’t regret reading this story, I don’t know if I’ll bother reading anything else from this series.
That isn’t to say I won’t read more of Dickerson’s works, I will. I enjoyed the writing style of this story immensely. It’s just the specific series that I don’t think is my speed.
This might be me showing my ignorance in regards to European history, but I have a few questions in regards to some of the things that happened in this story. First of all, when Frederick mentions that the priest is going to come talk to him at noon about the church door carving job he also mentions that the market is already clearing out. How early do/did people leave the market on market day? Nowadays farmers markets that I’ve been to in Southern Ontario run all day and are pretty consistently busy. Is that not the norm?
Okay, maybe I just had the one question. But it’s plagued my mind on and off since I started this story…. Any insight would be much appreciated.
On a completely different, non-question based, note, I just have to say how much of an ass Lord Conrat is. Rat is right – and he’s a bit of a con artists, too. To be the reason that Frederick’s mom doesn’t have her own happiness and Frederick himself grew up to think that his father was an abusive alcoholic. To do anything in his power to continue the Duke’s line – even if that means lying to and keeping things from the Duke himself. To be so downright pitiful as to deny doing anything wrong even though he’d threatened multiple peoples’ lives and even faked at least one death (that we know of).
He might argue that what he did he did in the name of loyalty, but that’s a twisted sense of the word if I’ve ever seen one. He wasn’t doing what he did to be loyal. No, he did it to further his own agenda and keep protecting his own ass from the lies and deceit that he’d been spreading for decades. He truly is a character that’s been created for the sole purpose of hating.
Basina deserved better than the life that Conrat’s lies force upon her. Sure her pitiful life led to Frederick finding the love of his own life, but she suffered greatly for him to find happiness. And she kept it from him almost his entire life.
That’s something else that pulled me out of the story – there are no consequences to the characters’ actions. Sure Conrat gets demoted and his schemes fall apart. And sure, Barthold had his whole world turned upside down with the knowledge of Frederick being his older brother. But that’s it.
Basina kept a huge secret from Frederick his entire life. Yet there was no conflict at all between the two of them. She told him the truth, he said he was hurt, and then promptly forgave her. She didn’t have to earn back his trust or show any remorse for her actions. She told him the truth and he put it behind them. Simple as that. What could have been a great driving force in this entire story just became a throwaway tool.
Then we have Frederick’s twin sisters. They were nasty and hateful at the start of the story because that’s all they’d ever known. Yet their nasty attitudes never caused them any trouble. They blackmailed Frederick into taking them with him to the market, and he gave them some coin to spend. They were mean and verbally abusive to him their entire lives, and he just forgave them. While I’m not saying that I wish he’d left them behind on the farm when his mother and he ran away to the capital, there could have still been some tension between the two parties. Instead, Frederick forgave them for years of torment just because they’re his family.
Even the ending of the story fell a little flat to me. I understand that this book is only part of the series, but I didn’t feel any joy at Frederick and Adela’s conclusion. Yes, they get to be together and enjoy their lives as artists. And yes, Frederick was not pressured to live up to the expectations of someone of his lineage.
But the concerns were brought up early in the story that Adela was used to certain comforts in her life and she wasn’t certain that she’d be able to live without them. Her mother brushed the worries aside by saying she would never have to worry about that as she’d be marrying someone with money and that love trumps comforts every time. But Adela wasn’t going to marry someone with money. Sure Frederick managed to find work as a woodworker and carver, but I find it hard to believe that the money he was going to make from this new occupation is going to be able to grant Adela the lifestyle that she was accustomed to. Love might be a fantastic thing, but discontent in one’s life can grow discontent in a relationship. It’s easy to see the loss of a lifestyle you once had impact a relationship in negative ways. And yet these concerns were never really dealt with or answered in a satisfying way. At least not in my books.
All that said, there were things about this story that I actually enjoyed. I enjoyed Basina and Duke Reichart’s romance immensely. It felt more real and impactful that Adela and Frederick’s. In fact, I’m certain that I would have enjoyed the story much more if this romance had been the focal point of the story. Heck, even if this plotline played a larger role in the story I would have been happy. To be torn apart for years thinking the other never loved you only to find out that you’d both been fed falsehoods is a much better plot in my opinion.
I also enjoyed the growth the twins went through. While I know that I went on a bit about the lack of consequences to their actions, I’m thrilled that they showed progress as human beings. Their transition from hateful hags to doting daughters and sisters was fantastic to see. It’s true that removing a toxic person from your life can have almost instantaneous improvements in your being. I’m glad that as soon as their father was away from them they realized their mistakes and were willing to work through them to make themselves better people. The Ursula and Eulaly at the start of the story never would have gone with their mother to Grundlesbach in the slim chance that the Duke would be able to help them find Frederick. They never would have allowed themselves to suffer any discomfort at another’s expense. I’m glad that it’s only after they became better people that their own love interests appeared.
I might not plan on reading any more of this series, but I’m also not upset that I read this book. The Peasant’s Dream might not have been what I was looking for, but there were elements in this story that I truly enjoyed. I’m glad I got to meet these characters briefly, even if I don’t plan on revisiting them. At least not anytime soon.