Melanie Dickerson’s Hagenheim/ Fairy Tale Romance Series retells familiar old stories and sets them in medieval Germany and England with no magic or fairy godmothers coming to the rescue. The sixth book in the series is The Golden Braid, based on Rapunzel.
Rapunzel’s mother has her locked up, not in a stone tower (at least at first), but in a prison of fear. She’s told Rapunzel all her life that other people are not to be trusted, men especially, and to keep to herself. They move frequently, which, combined with her mother’s warnings, makes it hard for Rapunzel to ever make any connections or feel like she belongs anywhere. At 17 she’s beginning to wonder if her life is normal.
Her mother is a midwife who found Rapunzel when she was 3 and has raised her ever since. Rapunzel has no memory of her life before and feels abandoned by her family.
As the two are traveling to a new location one day, they’re attacked by robbers. One of Duke Wilheim’s knights, Sir Gerek, happens to be nearby and comes to their rescue. But instead of being grateful, Rapunzel’s mother, Gothel, wants to be rid of him as soon as possible and Rapunzel is distant. He insists on accompanying them to Hagenheim, however, for their protection.
Meanwhile the robber turns the tables and comes after Gerek, and Rapunzel comes to his aid. Years ago she had some boys teach her how to throw knives, and she disables the attacker. But Gerek’s horse has thrown and and landed on top of him, breaking his arm and leg. Rapunzel feels compelled to help him, so they care for him until they come to a monastery where they leave Gerek to recover while they travel on to Hagenheim.
Rapunzel has always wanted to learn how to read, and sneaks away back to the monastery to ask if they will teach her in exchange for her working there cleaning. They agree and assign Gerek the task – since he’s not doing anything but recovering anyway. Neither of them is pleased with the arrangement, but they carry on anyway. Rapunzel finds Gerek haughty and grouchy. He thinks she’s pretty, but would never marry a peasant: he wants to marry a wealthy widow with land since he has none of his own.
Eventually life with Gothel becomes so precarious that Rapunzel wonders about her mother’s sanity, and she runs away to the castle in Hagenheim. With Gerek’s references, she is able to work as a maid. As she gets to know him in a different setting, she finds much to admire, but knows he would never consider her. But she when uncovers the mystery to her own identity, she struggles with the best way to handle it. And with the castle coming under attack by an enemy, that will have to wait anyway.
The action in the book, especially after Rapunzel comes to the castle, overlaps with that in the previous book, The Princess Spy, but I don’t think you’d have to have read that book to enjoy this one. I like how each book in the series can be read alone yet connects with the others and how characters we’ve met before show up again. I was delighted by who Rapunzel’s parents turned out to be.
I love a Christian fiction book that’s not ashamed to be Christian. Melanie weaves the faith element in quite naturally.
This series is listed a Young Adult, but to me they don’t read that way (except perhaps for The Princess Spy). It got a little too romance-y for me in places (shivers running up their spines when they accidentally brushed against each other’s fingers while handing something to the other and that kind of thing). But otherwise I enjoyed it very much, not just for the story, but also for the spiritual steps each character needed to take.
Others in the series, linked to my reviews:
Book 1: The Healer’s Apprentice based on Sleeping Beauty
Book 2: The Merchant’s Daughter, based on Beauty and the Beast
Book 3: The Fairest Beauty, based on Snow White
Book 4: The Captive Maiden, based on Cinderella
Book 5: The Princess Spy, based on The Frog Prince
This book and The Merchant’s Daughter have been my favorites. I’m reading the seventh, The Silent Songbird based on The Little Mermaid, now.
If you like fairy tale retellings, medieval stories, or clean romances, you will probably like The Golden Braid.
Genre: Christian fiction fairy tale
Objectionable elements: None
My rating: 9 out of 10
(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books and Carole’s Books You Loved)
I had never heard of these. I’m going to give them a try. Thanks for the review.
Thank you for the review, Barbara. From your description a couple of things remind me of Jan Karon’s style of writing and the Mitford series.
Glad to see this review, Barbara. I’m behind on reading Melanie’s books. I used to keep up with them as they came out, but I haven’t read the last few. I’ve always enjoyed them too.
I’ve been wondering about this one. Sounds like I would enjoy this series.
This book is huge at my library! I never read it but it is now on my TBR list. You don’t have to read the entire series right? Thanks!
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