Review: Court of Swans

Court of Swans by Melanie Dickerson is a book that was recommended to me a long time ago that I just got around to reading it. I was impressed by Melanie's vast array of fairy tale retellings, especially as a traditionally published author. Her books are classified as Christian Fiction, which gives her a pass for telling more traditional versions of these stories instead of the obligatory contemporary spin that requires women to become warriors and swear off men. What makes her books unique is that they retell these stories from a historical perspective of how they could have actually happened. The magical elements have been removed and replaced with metaphorical interpretations. It was interesting how she retold the story of "The Wild Swans" without anyone transforming into a swan.

Court of Swans by Melanie Dickerson

This book takes place in 14th century London and tells the story of a young woman named Delia whose brothers were arrested by the king on false charges. As the only one who was not placed under arrest, Delia takes it upon herself to infiltrate the castle and free them. Though she is advised not to reveal her true identity, she accidentally blabs to two knights who offer to help her. I found this relatable because I have trouble lying and keeping secrets as well. Of the two knights, one of them kept his promise, and the other turned out to be a jerk. Both were taken in by Delia's charms and the sincerity of her desire to help her brothers, who did everything they could to avoid their impending execution. However, they would not have been able to escape without the help of Delia and Sir Geoffrey.

Though I found this to be a pretty sweet story overall, I thought the Christian message was somewhat heavy-handed. The book had a clear theme of "Why do bad things happen to good people?" and the answer it kept giving was that God would save them if they were truly innocent. Yet, it was only through the dedicated efforts of Delia and Geoffrey that the brothers had any chance of being pardoned from their sentence. There was even one casualty in their escape that the book overlooked as self-defense, which seemed a little hypocritical given its strong moral message. The discussion questions at the end, which were probably meant for students, seemed particularly pushy about the way readers were meant to interpret the book.

What I liked the most about this book is how the author managed to adapt the main elements of the fairy tale in a way that could have actually happened. I've seen this done before, and it doesn't always work as well as it did here. In "The Wild Swans," the heroine's brothers were cursed by their evil stepmother, who transformed them into swans. Locking them in a dungeon under false pretenses is an equally unfortunate curse. The heroine in the fairy tale had to free her brothers by sewing them sweaters made of nettles and not speaking a word until the day the curse ended. Here, Delia also sewed some sweaters to keep them warm in the dungeon, but she had to resort to more practical means to free her brothers, including keeping her relationship to them a secret. The book even incorporated the aspect of the fairy tale in which one of the brother's arms did not transform back after the curse was broken.

This book made me curious about Melanie Dickerson's other fairy tale adaptations. She has a good eye for history and retelling stories in a practical way. It isn't the most exciting book I've ever read, but it had a lot of heart. The lengths that Delia was willing to go through for her brothers were quite touching, and I enjoyed seeing how the love triangle unfolded as well. I would recommend checking out any of her books if you are in the mood for a light historical romance inspired by a well-known fairy tale.


Anonymous said…
I highly recommend reading some of Melanie Dickerson’s books. I highly recommend “The Healer’s Apprentice” and “The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest.”

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