The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest: A Book Review

Passing out The Huntress of Thornbeck ForestUnexpected Gifts

“She wrote my name in it!” a student exclaimed as she gazed in wonder at the title page to Melanie Dickerson’s latest book, The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest and saw her name and a personal message from Melanie inscribed there.

The squeals of the eight excited girls rang in my ears for the rest of the day—and I wished I had video taped them as we met in the library and I gave them each a book. The stunned recipients of Melanie’s gifts make up what I call the ‘Unofficial Melanie Dickerson Fan Club of Holbrook Indian School.’

“When will her next book come out?” one girl had asked me only the day before.

“May 12,” I told her, having a hard time keeping my secret from her when she groaned in disappointment.

What she didn’t know is that two weeks ago, Melanie asked me how many girls would like a copy of her newest book, and I’d passed on the names of eight young ladies, ranging in age from 13-18, who had read and loved at least three of Melanie’s previous books.

I should explain a little about my students—at the beginning of each school year, students fill out a survey about their reading habits and book ownership. Ninety percent of my high school students don’t own a book of their own. Only about 20 percent of the students have any books in their homes, and only students that had me as their teacher last year can claim to have read more than ten books in their lifetimes. It’s no wonder that the average student reads at the fourth or fifth grade level.

Holbrook Indian School Street Team

All of these statistics amount to me doing anything I can to get students excited about reading. When I discovered that my girls loved Melanie’s books last school year, I felt like I’d hit the jackpot. I love finding books without the vampires, werewolves or sorcerers that students want to read. Click To Tweet

Even more rare—each book contains a clear message of the Good News that God wants to help us with our every day problems—without being preachy or heavy-handed. Most of my students don’t come from Christian homes, and they’ve had a steady diet of junk from a very young age.

As I passed out the books to the eight young ladies, I reminded them how special they were—the author of the book had given them each a copy before anyone else in the world could buy a copy.  And that’s the message of the gospel right there—undeserved gifts given before we even ask. Click To Tweet

But back to the book. The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest is the first of Melanie’s medieval books for older readers. Odette Menkels, the heroine is 21 (not that this older heroine bothered my girls at all—the youngest of them finished the book first). Because of her background, she discovers within herself a desire to help the poorest and most vulnerable of her fellow townspeople—the orphaned and very poor children. While she is certain that God looks in favor at her scheme to steal from the rich by poaching game from the local noble’s estate, as she becomes friends with the young man entrusted by the noble to catch the poacher, she starts to question her convictions.

Odette finds herself torn between her growing attraction for the man tasked with catching her and the respectability of marrying another suitor who’s wealth would allow her to help the poor in a more traditional way.

The author does a superb job of exploring the character’s motives and feelings so that the reader understands why they react to each new plot twist they way that they do. Readers who have dealt with betrayal at the hands of friends or family members will especially relate to the main characters, Odette and Jorgen, as they explore what it means to forgive.

The details about medieval life sprinkled throughout the story make the setting come alive without detracting from the plot.

If you’re looking for a great story with a little romance, a little mystery and a lot of character, look no further than The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest.

If you’d like to join our fan club for a release party on May 12, we’ll be setting up targets and practicing archery on the soccer field. Gooseberry tart, anyone?

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week (just ONE, please).

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

I found inspiration for my Monday at #inspirememonday. Join us! (tweet this)

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

Take a moment to visit the other hostesses, too! Angie, Cindy, and Denise.


Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

Please note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Anita, I loved reading this post. How exciting for these girls to be gifted a signed book. And what a wonderful teacher you are to inspire & motivate these girls to become readers. You are giving them a gift which will bless them their entire lives. This is also a wonderful review 🙂 Blessings!
    Joanne Viola recently posted…Fruit of the Spirit – Part 1My Profile

    • Aw, thanks for your kind words, Joanne! I absolutely love it when kids get excited about books and wish I could send every student home with 15 books for summer time reading!

  • You made me cry!!! I hadn’t even thought about the ways that this might be an especially appropriate story! Thanks, Anita, for all you do for your students. They are blessed to have you, for sure.

    • I didn’t mean to make you cry! Thank YOU so much for thinking of my girls and helping to build in them a love for books and a curiosity about the world, history and Jesus.

  • I love it when kids get turned on to reading! It opens up the whole world for them, as well as making them much more receptive to the promises and the truth of God’s Word.
    Michele Morin recently posted…Author Interview: Irene HannonMy Profile

    • Amen! I especially love it when they start to choose books that have wholesome plot lines and strong characters who have an interest in helping others–it makes it easier for them to realize that maybe THEY can do something positive with their lives!

  • Thank you for the wonderful review! I might have to go read this for myself. =)
    Wonderful to know of wholesome and inspirational stories to read!!

    Blessings of GREAT JOY!!
    Lisa Brittain recently posted…Psalm Sunday*April 26. 2015My Profile

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  • I am so encouraged by the way she have helped your students find joy and inspiration in books! I will be keeping an eye out for this book. So glad you shared this experience with the students!
    Carol recently posted…Apple-Gooseberry PieMy Profile

  • OH…Anita! Being a teacher and librarian, this makes my day before I head off to tutor a couple of 2nd graders. What a gift you are to these children. Reading is so key and to have the author there, giving them a book and having it signed by her. Oh, the delight I can see in these girls. Also glad to know about this book and her others.
    Caring through Christ, ~ linda
    ~ linda recently posted…Fruit of the Spirit – ColorfullyMy Profile

  • You are an incredible mentor to each one of these girls!
    Susan Shipe recently posted…five minute friday: hideMy Profile

  • Aw, you make me blush. I love helping kids discover great books!
    Anita Ojeda recently posted…The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest: A Book ReviewMy Profile

  • Wow… what a challenge and a blessing to watch a love of books and reading grow in these girls! What an honor to be able to awaken them to so many other worlds, as well as the Truth! Blessings on you, friend!
    ~Karrilee~ recently posted…When You Seek, You Will Find… (A Small Wonders Post)My Profile

  • While the story sounds wonderful, the story of your girls receiving their books was my favorite part of all. I can’t wait to meet you face to face.
    Wendy recently posted…I WANT GOD!My Profile

    • Yes! I’ll be in California in June…but the Riverside area.

  • Wow, I was really amazed by the statistics you gave. How exciting that you get to be a part if changing things for these students and their education!
    Sarah Lango recently posted…Yes, I’m StrugglingMy Profile

    • It’s so sad that my kids are virtually ‘bookless’–it’s inconceivable to me–I think my parents gave me books instead of a pacifier!

  • Don

    I have a proposal or two:
    1. You, or someone at your school start a fund-raiser to collect money to invite favorite authors to visit your school to meet their new fans who have discovered reading.
    2. This same fund could also be used to obtain complete autographed series for the students who have attained a predetermined level of reading throughout the year.

    OK. “Money where the mouth is,” my check for $300 is already on it’s way. If any other of your readers is an author and would like to participate in an on-campus inspiration, they can contact you. Right?

    Thank you so much for the positive inspiration at your school.

    • Wonderful ideas! Thank you for both your ideas and for putting your money where your mouth is!

  • What a sweet gift to these girls!! More than once has the discussion in our bookclub shifted to the perils of teenage lit. Keeping this in my back pocket (and spreading the word!). Thanks for the great review!

    • Nowadays, so many of the popular titles for teenagers are just meh. My daughter is in a MFA program where she gets to read tons of really good titles and she passes the best ones on to me :).

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