by Melanie Dickerson
Conditional Recommendation: Loosely based on the folk tale Aladdin, this growing-up-friends-to-lovers romance is a tame, enjoyable read.
Genre: Fairy Tale, Romance
This is light escapism reading. It’s easy, safe, enjoyable, and feel-good. Plus, fairy tale or folk tale retellings always pique my interest because I love discovering what various authors do with such well-known characters and stories. Melanie Dickerson’s retellings are set in a Christian worldview though her books are categorized as Christian. I breezed through this one and was surprised at how pleased I was by the story.
If you’re a picky reader I must warn you: I find Melanie Dickerson’s fairy tale retellings to be very hit or miss. They are either cringe-worthy and I can’t finish them or I enjoy them for light, happy reading. Her writing is simple and a bit repetitive, character development medium-shallow at best, and the Christianity can lack substance.
Orphaned and alone, Aladdin travels from the streets of his Arab homeland to a strange, faraway place. Growing up in an orphanage, he meets young Lady Kirstyn, whose father is the powerful Duke of Hagenheim. Despite the difference in their stations, Aladdin quickly becomes Kirstyn’s favorite companion, and their childhood friendship grows into a bond that time and opposition cannot break. Even as a child, Aladdin works hard, learning all he can from his teachers. Through his integrity, intelligence, and sheer tenacity, he earn a position serving as the duke’s steward. But that isn’t enough to erase the shame of being forced to stead as a small child—or the fact that he’s an orphan with no status. If he ever wants to feel equal to his beautiful and generous friend Kirstyn, he must leave Hagenheim and seek his fortune. Yet once Aladdin departs, Lady Kirstyn becomes a pawn in a terrible plot. Now, Aladdin and Kirstyn must rely on their bond to save her from unexpected danger. But will saving Kirstyn cost Aladdin his newfound status and everything he’s worked so hard to obtain?
Family is the major theme of the book and not only blood family, but the family we make ourselves by developing close, trusting relationships with others.
I really enjoyed Aladdin’s character. He uses perfectionism and hard work to try and make up for the shame of his short time as a thief when he was very young and he carries these tendencies with him through the book. With the help of his relationship with Kirstyn, however, they both learn that not only is no one perfect, but that they don’t have to be perfect to do good or gain a family. I liked reading Aladdin’s point of view because he’s an inherently good character with morals, a high standard of integrity and professionalism. I liked seeing him grow, learn, and succeed. He kept reminding me of Joseph with how his works were blessed and everyone liked him and trusted him with responsibilities. The similarities only increased when he finds his mentor, Herr Kaufman, and they develop a father-son bond. Herr Kaufman reminded me of Potiphar.
This series is set in Germany and Catholicism is evidenced throughout the story with the characters crossing themselves, blessing themselves with holy water, looking upon crucifixes, entering church to kneel and pray, interacting with priests (none of them are called “Father” in the book). The Christianity is vague and lightly sprinkled throughout. The characters don’t just pray in a church—they pray when facing difficulties and for other characters they care about.
Naturally, a happy ending. What I loved most about it was Aladdin’s forgiveness and care for Herr Kaufman and how Aladdin’s good influence raises Herr Kaufman’s spirits and health.
Kirstyn is kidnapped, bound, gagged, threatened, kept in dark places, and sometimes struck. She develops PTSD symptoms from her time in bondage. I thought it was as realistic as it could be without being dark or reveling in suffering and despair. Her kidnappers have outbursts of rage, especially when drinking, and the girlfriend is clearly abused though nothing is described in detail.
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