Castle of Refuge (Book Review)

This was the first book I’ve read by Melanie Dickerson. Halfway through, I was pretty sure I’d found a new favorite author!

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Recommendation

Highly and happily recommend! I am so excited, not only about this book, but also with the prospect of reading more from Melanie Dickerson.

Clean Reading

As a child and teenager, I read a variety of books from different genres and only occasionally came across objectionable content that would make me close a book and stop reading. Of course, the fact that I typically chose children’s fiction made for cleaner reading than the books in the YA section.

As an adult, I’ve continued the trend of enjoying children’s books. Typically, if I read an adult (or YA) book, it’s in the Christian genre. The one major difference I’ve noticed is that, even in children’s books, I find that’s it so much harder to find wholesome content.

For this reason, I’ve been wanting to find more “go-to” Christian authors (my favorites are Ted Dekker, Robin Jones Gunn, Melody Carlson, Frank Peretti and Bill Myers). With that said, I have just finished my first book by Melanie Dickerson and am so happy to report that she may be a new “go-to” author for me. Reading this book was such a blessing!

Genre

I wanted to comment on genre, because this is the first book, of its type, that I’ve read. Castle of Refuge is a Christian, YA fairy tale. It might more accurately be described as “historical fiction,” because the story is realistic— no magic, nor mythology. However, the book is also marketed as an adaptation of the Ugly Duckling story, which drew me in, and is set in the same time period as many beloved fairy tale/ adventure stories.

I’ve read my fair share of Christian adventure/allegory stories for children (which are some of my very favorite books to read), as well as some realistic Christian fiction for teens (which I also really enjoy), but am not accustomed to seeing this type of book for this particular age group. I also really like that the novel did not include magic, because, YA novels often take on a darker tone with magic. Plus, I’ve seen more and more books that are sympathetic to witchcraft, as well as a rise of witchcraft in our society, so am more reticent toward inclusion of magic, in general.

Tales of Dericott

When I first saw this book on NetGalley, I decided not to request it because I saw that it was the second in a series. I later thought I was mistaken and ended up requesting it.

This book is indeed part of a book series. However, I’m glad to say that it definitely “works” as a standalone. Based on the synopsis I read about book one, it is from the perspective of a completely different character, who plays only a small role in book two. Although I do my best to avoid jumping into series in the middle, I didn’t feel that I missed out on any important information because I started with the second book. The one disclaimer I would add is that, having read book two, I have no desire to backtrack to book one, because the events (and conclusion) of book one are clearly spelled out.

Characters

I found the protagonists, Audrey and Edwin, to be very likable, as well as inspiring. Both characters desire to do what is right and to show love and compassion to those around them. They are also determined to live out Jesus’ teachings, even when their actions defy societal expectations. Secondary characters were also well-fleshed out and believable.

Spiritual Elements

I also found this book refreshing because of the spiritual elements. Audrey’s faith informs her moment-by-moment life, as well as her dreams for the future. We often catch glimpses of her praying or remembering Scriptures. This reminded me a little bit of the Mandie books by Lois Gladys Leppard, but the writing was a lot better, in my opinion.

Even the romance is surrounded with interactions with God. I say “even the romance” in contrast with certain Christian romances that seem to include faith as an afterthought. This book is grounded!

Romance

Based on the first part of the book, the second half included a bit more romance (kissing scenes) than I had expected. However, there is a clear statement of commitment before this happens. Because of the amount of romance, I would not recommend this book to children, but think that it is appropriate for a YA audience. There was also some definite allegory along with the romance 🙂

“It’s always noble to save your own life from someone who’s trying to harm you.”

Melanie Dickerson

This was one of my favorite quotes because, as Christians, it is easy to mistake self-hatred for self-sacrifice. Audrey learns more about her identity throughout the book 🙂

Published by Stephanie Agnes-Crockett

Hi, there! My name is Stephanie and I’m a Fresno, CA native. After studying at Biola University, I received my MLIS (Masters in Library Science) from San Jose State University. I live with my mom, poet Kimberly Vargas Agnese, and serve as her unofficial agent. We reside at MeadowArc, a food forest in its infancy. I am called to, and passionate about, purity. In fact, the name Agnes means “pure.” Before I was born, my mom felt led to include the name Agnes in her name, and in the names of her children. My full, hyphenated name includes 26 letters (but not the whole alphabet).

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