My love affair with Melanie Dickerson began several years ago while I was on the hunt for something new to read. The genre: fairy tale reimaginings. The time: late at night, possibly around 2:00 AM. That’s when I, generally, get the urge to read. She’s the only author I’ve ever pre-ordered a novel from, and I’m quite picky with who I read. My first book of hers was The Healer’s Apprentice. It’s from the Thornbeck Medieval Fairy Tale series that I’ve fallen for long character arcs, with each story centered around a different pairing from the ruling family. But, as a reader, you have to take each individual book into consideration while writing reviews, and The Warrior Maiden is no exception.
Let us begin with its synopsis, straight from the Amazon Kindle store: “When Mulan takes her father’s place in battle against the besieging Teutonic Knights, she realizes she has been preparing for this journey her whole life – and that her life, and her mother’s, depends on her success. As the adopted daughter of poor parents, Mulan has little power in the world. If she can’t prove herself on the battlefield, she could face death – or, perhaps worse, marriage to the village butcher.
Disguised as a young man, Mulan meets the German duke’s son, Wolfgang, who is determined to save his people, even if it means fighting against his own brother. Wolfgang is exasperated by the new soldier who seems to be one step away from disaster at all times – or showing him up in embarrassing ways.
From rivals to reluctant friends, Mulan and Wolfgang begin to share secrets. But war is an uncertain time and dreams can die as quickly as they are born. When Mulan receives word of danger back home, she must make the ultimate choice. Can she be the son her bitter father never had? Or will she become the strong young woman she was created to be?”
Here’s the fun part of any review: the pros! Even before I read the synopsis for THE WARRIOR MAIDEN, I knew I had to buy it. Why? Because I adore anything Mulan. However, as mentioned earlier, you have to take each tale as it comes, because they are reimaginings of versions more commonly known. In Dickerson’s version, Mushu the Dragon is replaced by Andrei, Mulan’s loyal friend, there are no singing temple spirits, and you can forget about any “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” numbers. All that’s portrayed in Disney’s 1998 version of Mulan is replaced with multiple battle scenes, lush settings, and a once tentative relationship between Mulan and Wolfgang.
I say “once tentative” because they don’t really like each other to begin with. And, if you really want to get into the whole comparing with Disney’s version thing, it’s comparable to Mulan and Captain Shang. In the beginning, Mulan tries everything she can think of to be invisible. But she’s immediately thrust into the limelight. Into direct competition, and later collaboration, with Wolfgang as the battle moves forward.
Now, for a few of those dreadful cons. While I didn’t agree with the way Steffan’s character behaved, his story is one reflective of redemption. While there is some explanation within THE WARRIOR MAIDEN of Wolfgang and Steffan’s relationship growing up, there is the present assumption that the reader is already familiar with the brother princes of Hagenheim. So it may be beneficial to read the previous stories. Other reviewers also mention their distraction with prayers written in italics, or that, aside from a description of Mulan’s looks and heritage, there isn’t much…Asian…to her. For a story set far from the borders of China, it makes sense that Mulan would reflect the culture she grew up in (in this timeline). Not to mention it’s the 1400s. They would not have the resources then to incorporate more of Mulan’s heritage.
Whew! I am not one to include spoilers of things in my reviews, and I hope I’ve done that justice. All in all, take each fairy tale retelling you read with a grain of salt. Try not to compare and contrast them too harshly with more familiar versions, and try not to be too disappointed if a particular story isn’t done the way you wish it was. While there were some key elements (as in the continuation of the Thornbeck storyline) I felt could’ve been expanded upon a little more, THE WARRIOR MAIDEN was truly Mulan’s story, and how she came to feel things for Wolfgang. I encourage you to give Melanie Dickerson’s series a read. It is Christian faith based, so if you’re uncomfortable with that there’s plenty of action and magic alongside it.
“[…] and for that miracle, he was thankful.” ~Melanie Dickerson
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars