Author Melanie Dickerson continues her tradition of adapting classic fairy tales with The Silent Songbird, based on The Little Mermaid. Evangeline longs to be free, to live in the world outside the castle walls. But freedom comes at a cost. Evangeline is the ward and cousin of King Richard II, and yet she dreams of a life outside of Berkhamsted Castle, where she might be free to marry for love and not politics. But the young king betroths her to his closest advisor, Lord Shiveley, a man twice as old as Evangeline. Desperate to escape a life married to a man she finds revolting, Evangeline runs away from the king and joins a small band of servants on their way back to their home village. To keep her identity a secret, Evangeline pretends to be mute. Evangeline soon regrets the charade as she gets to know Westley, the handsome young leader of the servants, whom she later discovers is the son of a wealthy lord. But she cannot reveal her true identity for fear she will be forced to return to King Richard and her arranged marriage. Westley le Wyse is intrigued by the beautiful new servant girl. When he learns that she lost her voice from a beating by a cruel former master, he is outraged. But his anger is soon redirected when he learns she has been lying to him. Not only is she not mute, but she isn’t even a servant. Weighed down by remorse for deceiving Westley, Evangeline fears no one will ever love her. But her future is not the only thing at stake, as she finds herself embroiled in a tangled web that threatens England’s monarchy. Should she give herself up to save the only person who cares about her? If she does, who will save the king from a plot to steal his throne?
I'll be honest: I had to go to Dickerson's website to look up which fairy tale she was retelling because, halfway through the book, I still hadn't figured it out. (She does talk about it in the acknowledgements at the end of the book, but I didn't want to accidentally spoil anything by checking it out while I was reading.) To be fair, I don't know the real Little Mermaid story, only the Disney version, and even that is a bit fuzzy—I vastly preferred Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, and I could probably count on one hand the number of times I've seen The Little Mermaid.
Ultimately, whether or not you can identify the fairy tale The Silent Songbird is based on doesn't matter, as the book is still completely engaging without knowing (as I can attest).
Evangeline, ward of King Richard, is a spunky, brave heroine who will do anything to escape an arranged marriage to a cruel man. Yet she is also exceedingly kind, a trait she shares with Westley (love that name!), the man who assists her as she flees the castle (though he doesn't know she's fleeing) and helps her find a job once they arrive in his village. The two have a sweet, slowly building romance that I couldn't help cheering for.
I also really enjoyed the subplot involving Evangeline's servant and closest friend Muriel. Muriel is a bit of an enigma, both to the reader and to Evangeline, and I appreciated how her story unfolded. Also, the villain, Lord Shiveley, is sufficiently evil without being a caricature. The time he actually appears in the story is minimal, but he—or the threat of him—profoundly influences Evangeline and, therefore, much of what happens throughout the novel.
While I have grown to love Melanie Dickerson's Hagenheim/Fairy Tale Romance Series, I didn't jump in until book five, The Princess Spy, so I missed the connections that long-time readers would have made between The Silent Songbird and The Merchant's Daughter. (I did recently pick up a bunch of Dickerson's books for 99¢ each, so I'll be going back to read the ones I've missed.) But even without making those connections, I still greatly enjoyed The Silent Songbird! 5 stars. Buy the book. Read my reviews of Dickerson's Fairy Tale Romances The Princess Spy(5 stars) and The Golden Braid(5 stars) and her Medieval Fairy Tale The Beautiful Pretender (5 stars).
Melanie Dickerson is the author of The Healer's Apprentice, a Christy Award finalist and winner of the National Reader's Choice Award for Best First Book. Melanie earned a bachelor's degree in special education from the University of Alabama and has been a teacher and a missionary. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Huntsville, Alabama.
Connect with Melanie: website, Twitter, Facebook,YouTube Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book myself and chose to review it. I also received a copy of this book free from the publisher through The Fiction Guild. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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