The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson
In the forests of a medieval land, a poacher and a forester face a battle of right and wrong when the lives of the poor, lives of orphaned children, and their own hearts are at stake. Odette Menkels lives a comfortable life as a well-off daughter, but life was not always that simple: as a child, Odette lived on the streets, unwanted and scraping for food. Her experience as an orphan child motivates her to take care of those children on Thornbeck’s streets, so she spends her nights hidden in the forests poaching deer to feed the poor and hungry. Odette’s heart is in the right place; however, when she shares a connection with the handsome forester during the Midsummer festival, suddenly her poaching becomes much more than a righteous way to take care of others. As a forester, Jorgen is bound by law to take down whomever is killing and selling the Margrave of Thornbeck’s deer. He does not know Odette is the poacher—and nor would ever believe the most beautiful lady in Thornbeck capable of such destruction. As he struggles to find the poacher, however, Jorgen begins to realize there is more to a person than just appearance. In a battle where neither adversary truly wins what they want, neither Odette nor Jorgen benefit if they give up their cause. During a time when law-breaking was met with the fiercest of consequences, Odette and Jorgen must find a way to do good for others and still uphold their values.
Melanie Dickerson’s novels have long been on my to-read list, so when I heard that her first adult fairy-tale retelling would be published in 2015, I jumped at the chance to review the novel. The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest, a retelling mixture of Swan Lake and Robin Hood, features a cast of characters and a story that bring medieval times in Germany to life. I was not sure what to expect of a fairy-tale telling for an adult: would Dickerson feature a magical creature? Would The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest feature romance as its main element? Fairy tales are stories usually told for children and feature some magical creature, but what I found in this retelling is that Dickerson wrote a truly honest account of life with references to fairy-tales of the past and lessons taken from moral and faith-based elements. I enjoyed this mixture of fairy tales, faith, and life, and believe that The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest is the perfect read for adults who love the magic of childhood years and the possibility of living those stories as life goes on.
Odette Menkels and Jorgen Hartman are two complex characters that support The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest almost entirely. With a few supporting characters that tie in elements of the story, Odette and Jorgen are the heart of this character-driven novel because their moral dilemmas deliver lessons that readers will draw from long after the last page of The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest. Dickerson’s novel brings to light questions of opportunity with right versus wrong. What are we to do, for example, when we know a certain is wrong but the outstanding ending of not doing something harms anyways? If the opportunity to do better requires a person to do wrong in the immediate time, do we still take that action? Dickerson also questions the amount of responsibility people have towards the less fortunate, ending the novel with an answer pleasing to The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest but leaving readers to understand that there is no clear-cut answer to this question.
Matters of faith aptly cover numerous questions and actions in this novel. Jorgen struggles with anger and resentment towards people and circumstances in his past, but Dickerson ties in forgiveness in a way that does not condone wrongs but still allows Jorgen to move forward. Loyalty is a strong theme throughout The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest, one that delivers in many ways as the characters find out that neither love nor rules cannot—and should not—drive loyalty to another person.
The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest is Dickerson’s first adult fairy-tale retelling, but I certainly hope she will have more coming in the future. I enjoyed a fairy-tale retelling for adults that keeps the maturity of a reading level for that age range but still kept the magic of the stories I loved so much as a child.
RATING: 4/5 stars
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Melanie Dickerson is an award-winning author who earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from The University of Alabama. She has taught in Georgia, Tennessee, Germany and the Eastern European country of Ukraine. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA), she now spends her time writing and taking care of her husband and two daughters near Huntsville, Alabama.