The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest (Melanie Dickerson)

I really wish I had done some more research before picking up this book.  I found it on my library’s app as one of the books recommended for me.   I saw a pretty cover.  I saw what looked like a YA fairy tale.  I snatched it right up.

Random forest picture: more interesting than the book.
Random forest picture: more interesting than the book.

As it turns out, this is apparently for adults.  I did not get that reading the book, I picked it up from reading reviews on Goodreads.  It’s also Christian fiction, which is not a deal breaker, but not my top choice nor what I expected going in.

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest is a sort of mash up between The Swan Princess and a gender swapped Robin Hood.  The beautiful Odette poaches deer from the Margrave of Thornbeck’s forest in order to feed poor children living along the city walls.  She meets and falls for the handsome Jorgen, who just so happens to be the Margrave’s forester, and is charged with keeping poachers out of the forest.

So, where to start here?

Both of these characters are just so wholesome and sweet they make my teeth hurt.  Even the villains of the piece (whose identities I won’t spoil, just in case you have a real hankering to read this one) aren’t really that bad, for the most part.  Odette and Jorgen don’t really seem to have any flaws.  Even Odette’s  law breaking ways are entirely altruistic.  Ugh.  They are just beautiful and perfect and painfully boring.  I kind of hated them both.

Even though this is supposed to be a medieval setting, you only sort of vaguely got a sense of that.  All of the focus seemed to be on the characters and how great they were that the rest of the setting was sort of superfluous.  Aside from the occasional German word thrown in, this could have been set almost anywhere European-ish pre-1900 or so.  She does describe the clothes, if Odette or Jorgen are wearing them.

As far as the Christian aspect goes, it was only occasionally a little heavy handed.  I could live with it.  However, by the end of the book, while the wrong doers were punished (relatively mildly), there was one conversation that would have ruined the whole book for me, had I not already disliked it.  As Odette is getting ready to head to church for her wedding, she is talking to her married friend Anna.  The gist of this conversation seems to be that, as a woman, it’s ok to have your opinions, but you should always do as your husband tells you.

Can I just go ahead and say it?  BULLSHIT.  I won’t get too feminist here, but just leave it at that, except to add: good luck to any man who thinks I’m going to constantly defer to him.  I’ve had relationships end for that garbage.  I understand that this is supposed to be the Middle Ages, and that was sort of their thing, but it was completely unnecessary to the plot. I don’t like that the author, who is a woman, is pushing this crap on her readers.

I read many other reviews that said you would be super surprised by the twist in this book and would never see it coming.  Those people must not read many things with any sort of complexity, because the foreshadowing was practically a brick to the face and it wasn’t too hard to figure out where things were going.  That is part of why I never realized this book was really for adults until after I had looked into more.  It was pretty simplistic.  In fact, most YA books are way, way more complex.

Obviously, this is not a book I recommend.  In fact, it’s fairly safe to say I hated it.  Don’t read this book.  Find something interesting.