The Healer's Apprentice
by Melanie Dickerson
Rose is the daughter of a poor woodcutter, and her mother is constantly nagging her to marry someone wealthy to better their family's status. But Rose has other options; as the apprentice to the town's healer, she's learned a trade and need never marry. The young woman has a secret she keeps hidden in her heart - she's in love with Lord Hamlin, the oldest son of the local ruling family. He's engaged to a mysterious noblewoman who has been raised in a hidden place to protect her from an evil sorcerer. Knowing she can never be with Lord Hamlin, Rose allows his younger brother, Rupert, to court her. But her love for the older brother refuses to be squashed, and Rose is torn between the two nobles...a most unlikely position for a commoner like herself.
The biggest weakness in this story was the fact that the "big twists" and "surprise ending" are mindbogglingly obvious. Before I had finished the first one hundred pages, I had already figured out the true identity of the black-eyed man stalking Rose, her secret background, and how the path would be cleared for her to end up with the man of her choice. Knowing all this, it made the rest of the book seem extremely plodding, and the various characters dumb as bricks because they couldn't see how their problems would obviously be worked out. The one exception to the predictability was a strange exorcism scene toward the end of the book. No substantial supernatural/demonic forces had been revealed earlier in the book, so this little scene came straight out of nowhere and really didn't seem to match the overall tone of the book.
"The Healer's Apprentice" is a work of Christian fiction, with Evangelical/Protestant themes underlying the narrative. This gave the book an oddly anachronistic feel, because the characters didn't follow the religion of their time. Although I don't have a problem with books that have dominant Christian themes, I do dislike it when historical characters don't act appropriate to their time period. No one goes to confession, calls upon the Virgin Mary or even mentions a Catholic saint in passing, which seems odd, since Catholicism was the religion of the time. I guess such actions aren't necessary to telling the story, but the exclusion of little details made it harder for me to believe in the reality of Rose's world.
Finally, this book was advertised as a 're-telling' of the famous fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty". There is only the thinnest of connections between the fairy tale and this story. If this is the reason you are intrigued by the book, move on.
2 out of 5 stars