Book Review | The Merchant's Daughter

The Merchant's Daughter
YA Romance Fairy Tales #2
Melanie Dickerson

Publisher:  Zondervan
Genre:  YA, Fiction, Historical, Medieval, Fairytales
Released:  2011

{Goodreads}
An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice. 

Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf's bailiff, a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past. 

Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff's vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger. Ranulf's future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.

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WARNING: Possible Spoilers

{The Basics}
First off.  This is a retelling of Beauty & the Beast.  Which, I think, is definitely my favorite fairytale.  So, I knew I would love this one.

Unlike the other novels of Melanie Dickerson, which take place in Germany, this one is set in Gylnval, England, where the people have suffered disease and hardship.  Three years before, Annabel lost her father, a wealthy merchantman, to the pestilence and finds no comfort in her own home with her mother and two older brothers.  The town council calls forth the court to decide the verdict for her family's fate, as they have shirked their duties as part of the township, ignoring the fieldwork and struggling to live like the wealthy people they used to be.

{Positives}
Annabel alone seems to realizes the magnitude of the court's decision, while her mother and brothers choose to be ignorant and dwelling in their self-pity.  Upon learning the verdict, she makes her own decision and enters into service as an indentured servant to the new lord of the land.  She strives to give every job her best, ignoring the criticism and severity of her fellow workers.

Annabel has a sweet and gentle spirit, and a starving thirst for God's Word.  God eventually quenches this thirst by sending Lord Ranulf, and in his allowing her to read from his Bible in an evening session every night.  The first time her lord places the heavy Book in her lap, she weeps, for her lifelong dream has been fulfilled.

[To me, Annabel's desire to read from God's Book was such a refreshing breath of air.  It made me realize how much I take for granted.  Here I am, living free, with several copies of my Lord's Bible and I only read it because I should.  Not because I want to?  Annabel's attitude really put it into perspective.  And in her joy, I found joy.]

{Negatives}
The town bailiff is a horrid man.  Many times does he attempt to assault Annabel (each time she gets away), whispering to her the lewd things he would do to her (we never hear just what).

Annabel's mother and brothers care nothing for her, going so far as to betroth her to the bailiff in hopes of securing their own futures free of hard labor.

The village priest rejects Annabel's request to borrow his Bible, basically saying it is not for a woman to read and sending her away with instructions to "confess her sin."  [SPOILER] It turns out that he does not even own a copy of the Holy Book!  He merely repeats his sermons over and over.  In her own reading sessions with Lord Ranulf, Annabel comes to see the flaws in the man's teachings.

A servant girl openly flirts with Lord Ranulf, faking a couple "accidents" so she could throw her arms around him (i.e. hurting her ankle, falling out of a chair, etc.).

{Spiritual Content}
It is required of the lord's staff to attend the church services every Sunday.  Annabel prays to God and is overjoyed at the opportunity to read from His Bible.  Passages from Scripture is quoted and stories related.

Annabel learns she must love her enemy and finds difficulty in that.  Lord Ranulf knows his Scripture and tells her it serves to calm him.  But it's only after she reads his Bible each evening and he sees her reaction, that he realizes he has drifted from his faith.

{Violence}
A woman is nearly assaulted by a horrid man, who roughly grabs her and attempts to kiss her.  She wrestles free only to be nearly run over by a horse.  (She is unharmed, save for a few bruises and a cut on her wrist from the man.)

A barn is set on fire, destroying a Winter's worth of grain.  The livestock are saved, and only Lord Ranulf walks away with a minor injury--burns to the arm.

Lord Ranulf, himself, is rather disfigured from a previous wolf attack in his youth.  He wears an eye-patch, has a wealth of scars, and a beastly attitude.  And it doesn't help when, in remembering his past mistakes with a woman he loved, he leaves his own in the middle of the night and collapses on the ground with an anguished howl.  This only adds to the rumors of his beastly behaviour.  But he has a reason--he's not a werewolf, I assure you.

A series of paintings is rather graphic in depiction. . .

A man attacks a woman as she is returning from the privy.  She frees herself and draws a knife, but the man takes it from her.  Her friend arrives in the nick of time and defends her, throwing a rock which hits the man on the head.  Believing they had killed him ([SPOILER] He doesn't die), they flee, and she promises to keep the truth a secret as long as possible, in order to protect her friend.

The villagers, roused together in anger by a particular man, rally to kill Lord Ranulf.  The lord's men and workers gather in defense, though they are outnumbered, but someone comes to the rescue and defuses the scene by negotiating.

A man is shot in the leg by an arrow, merely a graze.

{Language, Alcohol & Drugs}
Ale is used as a staple drink in the village.  The bailiff is a drunk and is seen many times as so.  A woman uses herbs and honey to treat a burn.

{Love-y Content}
There is an attraction between Lord Ranulf and Annabelle.  (Of course!)  He holds her a couple times in an embrace, but they pull away because of propriety.  He wants to kiss her, but refrains from doing so.  (They eventually do in the end, of course.  No spoiler there. :] )  He comes to love her, and her him, but they both think the other doesn't.  O_o  Anyway, she sees through the scars and anger of the beast and finds the hero and gentleman inside.  He realizes that not all women are the same, and compared to his first wife, who only married him for his fortune and status (she died earlier, leaving him a bitter man), Annabel is the right one.

{Conclusion}
LOVED this tale.  Annabel's character is such a beautiful example of a quiet and gentle spirit.  She has her flaws, and must ask forgiveness for ungodly thoughts and hate toward a certain man.  But all in all, she strives to live as God ordained, ignoring the hurtful remarks of her fellow servants and trying to see the good in terrible situations.

So, to conclude: I thoroughly enjoyed this little novel and would definitely recommend to all my friends and lovers of fairytales.  :]

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Recommended ages:  15+

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