The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson
This e-galley was provided by BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: "Swan Lake" meets Robin Hood when the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant by day becomes the region's most notorious poacher by night, and falls in love with the forester.
Jorgen is the forester for the wealthy margrave, and must find and capture the poacher who has been killing and stealing the margrave's game. When he meets the lovely and refined Odette at the festival and shares a connection during a dance, he has no idea she is the one who has been poaching the margrave's game.
Odette justifies her crime of poaching because she thinks the game is going to feed the poor, who are all but starving, both in the city and just outside its walls. But will the discovery of a local poaching ring reveal a terrible secret? Has the meat she thought she was providing for the poor actually been sold on the black market, profiting no one except the ring of black market sellers?
The one person Odette knows can help her could also find out her own secret and turn her over to the margrave, but she has no choice. Jorgen and Odette will band together to stop the dangerous poaching ring . . . and fall in love. But what will the margrave do when he discovers his forester is protecting a notorious poacher?
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: There aren't many retellings of Swan Lake (and to be honest, I think there should be more). Melanie Dickerson has retold many fairytales well, and I couldn't wait to see what she'd do with Tchaikovsky's ballet.
The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest is intended for an upper YA/NA audience, and I could see why. The main characters are in their twenties (whereas Melanie's previous heroines have all been 18 or under). There's a subplot revolving around a brothel. Some of the discussions seem more mature and less exciting. Don't get me wrong - it's still a very clean book, language-and-romance-wise. But I could see why it's intended for an older audience.
I think one of my main problems with this book is that dialogue and narration felt stilted and awkward at times. Phrasing felt unnatural. I'm not sure if Ms. Dickerson was going for an historical feel, but it didn't entirely work for me. There was also a lot of talk about marriage. It got a bit tedious after awhile, because I felt certain things were repeated a lot (Odette should marry Mathis, but she likes Jorgen, Jorgen isn't good enough for her, Odette is 21 so she should marry soon, etc.).
I enjoyed that Odette took an active role. She wasn't just called compassionate - she actually put it into practice. She taught the poor children and she hunted to provide food for the townspeople. Her heart was in the right place. She was also brave when she stood up to the person who was tricking her. I enjoyed watching her relationship with Jorgen develop. It was a bit quick, but they did get to know each other and it felt more real by the end.
The Verdict: Good plot but the writing style might be off-putting for some.
Will I be adding this book to my library?: Probably. I'd like it for my Melanie Dickerson collection.