24 November 2016

Review: The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson

Amazon Description

Evangeline is gifted with a heavenly voice, but she is trapped in a sinister betrothal until she embarks on a daring escape and meets brave Westley le Wyse. Can he help her discover the freedom to sing again?

Desperate to flee a political marriage to her cousin King Richard II’s closest advisor, Lord Shiveley—a man twice her age with shadowy motives—Evangeline runs away and joins a small band of servants journeying back to Glynval, their home village.

Pretending to be mute, she gets to know Westley le Wyse, their handsome young leader, who is intrigued by the beautiful servant girl. But when the truth comes out, it may shatter any hope that love could grow between them.

More than Evangeline’s future is at stake as she finds herself entangled in a web of intrigue that threatens England’s monarchy.Should she give herself up to protect the only person who cares about her? If she does, who will save the king from a plot to steal his throne?

My Review

I’ve read several favourable reviews for Melanie Dickerson’s fairytale retellings, so I was when The Silent Songbird came up for review, I was keen to read it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it. I suspect I’m not the target audience, even though I often read and enjoy Young Adult novels (e.g. Intermission by Serena Chase).

I didn’t warm to either Eva/Evangeline or Westley as characters. Westley was too perfect—his only fault seemed to be that he was too trusting. Evangeline seemed too modern in her thinking, and I wasn’t convinced someone with her sheltered upbringing would have the gumption to refuse marriage at the order of the King.

I found the writing wooden, mostly because of the lack of contractions. Yes, I know the English didn’t use contractions in the 1300’s, and avoiding contractions was probably intended to add an air of authenticity. But I still think it made the writing seem stilted and artificial.

The novel seemed well researched, if a little Disneyfied. It’s loosely based on the story of the Little Mermaid, and if I remember my childhood fairytales correctly, her punishment for choosing to live as a human was that every step would feel like she was walking on knives. Disney ignored this, and The Silent Songbird also ignores some of the seedier side of medieval life—which made it read more like fantasy than the historical romance I thought it was going to be.

And perhaps that’s my actual problem. I’m not a fantasy reader. Sure, I’ve read some of the classics, but I much prefer dystopian or science fiction to fantasy. Perhaps that’s because I’ve studied history and visited English castles, and know a little too much about what goes on in a torture chamber, which means I don’t find anything romantic about novels with this kind of time setting—whether true historical fiction or some kind of wishful fantasy, as this is.

This is the seventh book in a series, but can easily be read as a standalone novel. I’m sure those who have read and enjoyed the previous books will also enjoy this, as will readers who enjoy historical fiction/fantasy.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.


  1. Good review, but this Medievalist is utterly horrified at the mention of 'torture chambers'. There is little to no evidence for 'torture chambers' in Medieval castles, and no evidence most of the so called 'Medieval torture implements before the sixteenth or seventeeth century- in many cases before the ninteenth century.
    Most 'torture chambers' are modern tourist attractions- whereas the simple fact is torture was forbidden under English Common Law in the Middle Ages, and they certainly did not go torturing people left right and centre for trivial offences- when most crimes were punishable by fines.

    Sorry for the history lesson, it got me going. I did not warm to Eva either. She came across as selfish and shallow.

    1. I suspect some people might think "Medieval" is "anything before Jane Austen".

      And don't worry - I'm always open to a history lesson :)

    2. Oh thank goodness for that. I know what you mean about the odd definition of 'Medieval'. The number of Regencies that come up when you search for Medieval Fiction on Amazon, or books set in the 17th and 18th century. It seems that sometimes being set in a castle is enough.