I enjoy Melanie Dickerson's young adult fiction greatly, so when my dad gave me the option to review her newest book, The Beautiful Pretender, I jumped at the chance. I was not disappointed. The Beautiful Pretender, in a pattern set by Dickerson's previous books, is based after a fairy tale, the story of the princess and the pea. However, even though it is grounded in a traditional fairy tale, it does not stay traditional for long.
Reinhart, the young and newly established margrave of Thornbeck, has just been ordered by the king to marry, soon. The king even provides him with a list of suitable young women to choose from. Reinhart is not pleased, but with prodding from his new chancellor, Jorgen Hartman and his young new wife, Odette, he sets up a series of tests for the young ladies to pass through.
Avelina is just a servant girl, maid to Lady Dorothea of Plimmald. But when her mistress runs away, Avelina is ordered by the Duke of Plimmald to go to Thornbeck to gain the margrave's favor in hope that he will help defend Plimmald from imminent attack. She only has two orders, don't get caught, and don't get married. To her, the harder of the two is to not get caught. Or so she thinks.
But as hard as she tries, she cannot make herself stoop below the attention of the handsome young margrave. The result is a plot so intricately woven that each twist will leave you hanging on, reading just one more chapter. Adding additional flair is Avelina's strong personality, born from her peasant life, making her highly intelligent even without special pampering.
One thing I miss in the reading of this was the use of Odette's skills. Odette is alluded to being a skilled archer, but there is never a time when Avelina gets to see her using her skills. But even being a background character alongside her husband, Jorgen, she still has an immense amount of character.
I enjoyed Melanie Dickerson's exhilarating take on the traditional princess and the pea story a great deal and will enjoy reading over and over again in the future.
Dad note: I skimmed it quickly, saw nothing bad for a teenager. Yes, the world isn't as perfect. We don't read to see normal worlds. We read for ideal worlds.
Free book received in exchange for the review.