Book Review: The Piper's Pursuit by Melanie Dickersen
EDITED TO ADD: Well after I read the book and wrote this review, I found out that the author has also written a version of MULAN and ALADDIN, both whitewashed and set in Western Europe. Which is such a huge fucking NOPE I’d have reversed any positive recommendation I gave this book. Good thing I already thought it was shite then, huh?
This is book 10 in Dickersen’s Hagenheim series, all apparently fairytale retellings. I haven’t read any of the others but did feel that this retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamelin could be read alone; while there is reference made to the hero Steffan’s actions in previous books, it wasn’t confusing or necessary to know about.
In 1424, things are very wrong in the small German town of Hamlin. There’s a plague of rats and worse by far, children have been disappearing for months, supposedly killed by the Beast of Hamlin, a terrifying wolf-creature. Stepdaughter of the mayor, Katerina is determined to save her people, but she can’t do it alone. When a handsome stranger turns up and helps her defeat a wolf on his first day in town, she takes the first tentative steps towards trusting.
I’d call this a YA novel aimed at the younger end of the target demographic. I’d probably have adored this when I was about 12, but older me started nit-picking right away - 52 children missing from a small town is catastrophic, an entire generation missing, and there’s no way the townspeople wouldn’t have been in open revolt by that stage. The thing with the rats was weird and made no sense, because any peasant knows how to kill a rat. Cats and dogs were kept for the purpose, and a mayor eager to splash cash around should have been importing ratting terriers to deal with it immediately.
The Christian themes get very heavy-handed towards the end of the book - Steffan confessing his sin of wanting to kiss Katerina made me roll my eyes. I don’t mind a certain amount of prayer and thanksgiving in historicals particularly because religion was a major part of everyday life in those times, but here it comes off evangelical and self-righteous, especially when Katerina is attempting to get the villain to have a change of heart by telling him God won’t forgive him.
I’m obviously not the target market for this book, being neither 12 nor evangelical Christian. However, if you’re a parent who considers that this might be suitable for a child you’re choosing reading material for, bear in mind there are some uncomfortable themes in here, such as Katerina’s abusive stepfather and hints at sexual violence as well as enslavement of children, cruelty to animals and other difficult topics. I guess I’m struggling to see who would actually be the appropriate target audience here, because I can’t think of anyone I’d recommend it to. Two stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.