SPOILER ALERT!

Reading progress update: I've read 70% and I am done.

The Captive Maiden - Melanie Dickerson

I'm just done with this. The Normandy (my Kindle) says I could finish this in less than an hour, but there are so many better things I could be doing with that hour.

 

All of the religion feels strange, not just because it is there (I was not expecting it, but it is not a huge deal to me, really), but because it does not at all feel like religion from the time period. It is set in the Holy Roman Empire in the early 1400s and the Christianity I am seeing here would be quite at home in a modern-day Protestant mega-church in the United States. An awful lot of characters seem to be very familiar with the Bible in its entirety, given at this point it would have been in Latin. There are quotations all over the place. Friars seem to be being used as window dressing, but there is no mention of even these deeply religious characters going to mass ever. If this is going to be set in a time period and place with established religious practices and also religion is going to be such a major plot device (and it is, and it is becoming more so), please get the religion right.

 

The characters are grating on me more and more. Valten and Gisela are too goody-goody and are getting progressively worse as the book goes on. Now, don't get me wrong. I like good characters. I prefer my characters to be good people. But these people have hit the point where all they are is good.

 

Gisela seems to be losing whatever gutsiness she previously had as the romance progresses, as well as all of her other interests. Her head is tuned to the Valten channel 24/7 and it is boring. Valten has his own set of issues. He does not seem to think very well of women. Oh, he would love to guard them and protect them and think about how beautiful they are, but he doesn't actually seem to really like them. He makes an awful lot of dismissive remarks that make it hard to feel anything other than a vague annoyance with him. This is made worse by how badly affected Gisela seems to be by their relationship. Suddenly, she becomes needy and needs to be taken care of and rescued again and again.

 

The villians are cardboard cutouts. Her stepmother and stepsisters hate Gisela to an insane level, though that is not exactly abnormal for Cinderella. Valten's nemesis hates him to an insane level as well and it is never clear why. It feels like strangely like a violent form of Oscar and Kieran's relationship in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (yes, video game comparisons are being drawn. Sue me.) where apparently one of them has decided they are serious rivals and hasn't actually bothered to tell the other one that this is so. It is weird. Valten doesn't seem to remember him almost at all in the beginning and this guy is apparently out to ruin his life.

 

Everything felt very flat. It was cheesy and the dialogue between Valten and Gisela was pretty awful. Everything was simplistic in the extreme: the language, the continual over-explanation of the plot, the dialogue, the characters; there was no real reason for this to actually have been a full novel. Maybe I was spoiled by Cinder, but I was expecting at least a little bit of a twist, or some characters I could root for, or something that made me want to keep reading. I love fairy tale retellings. I wanted to like this.