The Princess Spy by Melanie Dickerson Review

Melanie Dickerson's popular Christian YA fairy tale re-tellings continue with The Princess Spy, an adaptation of The Frog Prince.
(c.) 2014 by Zondervan
Title: The Princess Spy
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Published: 2014 by Zondervan

Margaretha has always hoped to find her true love, but when an injured man is brought to Hagenheim castle, her world is thrown into disarray.  The mysterious Englishman is evasive in his answers, refusing to reveal his name or who left him for dead.  When he rescues a valuable heirloom, she knows the only way she could help repay him is to spy on her suitor, Lord Claybrook, who "Gawain" is convinced was involved in a murder.  But whom should she trust?

Melanie Dickerson's popular Christian YA fairy tale re-tellings continue with The Princess Spy, an adaptation of The Frog Prince.  Though loosely connected to her previous novels by featuring the children of the protagonists of The Healer's Apprentice and The Merchant's Daughter, like her other works, it can be read as a stand alone.

As always, it's enjoyable for me to see how Dickerson incorporates elements of her chosen fairy tale into her adaptation.  I learned in my English Literature class that in academia, one way they classify fairy tales is by subject or theme by the Aarne Thompson Uther system.   

The Frog Prince was the first English translation of the Brothers Grimm's The Iron Heinrich (or, The Frog King) and is ATU 440, that is Aarne Thompson Uther type 440 (the aptly titled "Frog Kings: Tales of Slimy Suitors").  Though details can change from tale to translation, the main story is this: A princess looses her golden ball in a pond or well and reluctantly befriends the frog who retrieves her plaything.  Later it is revealed that the frog was actually a handsome prince and one of the "morals" of the tale is the importance of  keeping your promises --highlighted when the frog appears at the castle and the princess doesn't want to let him in though she promised he could be her companion as seen in this excerpt from the Grimm's story:
The king said, "What you have promised, you must keep. Go and let the frog in."
 I think the primary way Dickerson chose to adapt this tale was through her female protagonist.  In the original tale, the princess comes across as a bit spoiled, maybe even bratty.  She carelessly promises the frog that he can live with her because she believes he can only stay in the water:
The princess thought, "What is this stupid frog trying to say? After all, he does have to stay here in the water. But still, maybe he can get my ball. I'll go ahead and say yes," and she said aloud, "Yes, for all I care. Just bring me back my golden ball, and I'll promise everything."
Margaretha is a much more likeable heroine.  Her talkative nature is seen as a fault or an annoyance by other characters at times, but I found it endearing and something that set her apart from Dickerson's past heroines.  Also, though she doesn't hurl the frog against a wall like in the earlier tales --Sorry folks, the transformation kiss?  That's a more recent addition!-- Margaretha is no shrinking violet.  Not to say that her hero is a pansy! The "frog" character, Colin, is completely human and never in a frog form (though he does spend some time in some ugly frog-colored garments).  One of the most cleverest of Dickerson's adaptation decisions in this novel was to create a bond between Margaretha and Colin through a language barrier.  The Duke's daughter is one of the only English speakers in Hagenheim castle, so Colin is forced to rely on her and it is the reason why kindhearted Margaretha initially feels she should help him.  Seeing their relationship grow and develop from this beginning was a pleasure.  The only criticism I could give is that some of her plots are beginning to seem a tad formulaic (the protagonists forced to travel together on a dangerous journey), but so were Brian Jacques' Redwall novels and they are still loved and enjoyed by many.

If you like sweet, fairy tale adaptations suitable for teens and up, definitely give Melanie Dickerson's books a try!  Side note: The Princess Spy has one of my favorite book cover art from 2014!  Just gorgeous --I love green!  Also, I appreciate how the author and cover artist coordinate these stories and their covers.  All of the dresses depicted on her book covers are described at least once in all the Dickerson's novels I can remember ...

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this title from the publisher through their BookLook bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.*


  1. Oh, I'm jealous! I've loved all books by Melanie Dickerson.

    I like that you mentioned the original tale. I always thought it was really interesting, and amusing, how the transformation took place in the Frog King. No wonder we don't see any frogs turning into princes/kings. We've been going at it all wrong! :)

    Thanks for the great review,
    Ally @ The Scribbling Sprite

    1. Ally, she's one of my favorites too. =)

      Ha ha, I know right? Ever since I took an English class on "Fairy Tales and their Adaptations" I've wanted to reread Dickerson's novels and analyze them in relation to the original tales. Maybe I'll be able to do it this coming year!

      The Frog King was one that surprised me --I thought it was hilarious that she threw the frog at a wall rather than the kiss I was expecting ... =) It was also interesting to read about why scholars thought these changes occurred.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Replies
    1. Melanie Dickerson commented on my blog! ^_^ Thank you for stopping by!


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