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Book Review

The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

It is 1384 in Hertfordshire, England. Seventeen-year-old Evangeline lives in Berkhamsted Castle as a ward of her cousin, the king. Like her companion and friend Muriel, she is an illegitimate child of royalty.

Although Muriel enjoys life at the palace, Evangeline feels like a prisoner. She knows common peasants can fall in love and marry, but women with royal blood don’t have the luxury of romantic love. When the king promises her hand in marriage to his sinister aide, Lord Shiveley, she runs away.

Lord Shiveley has secretly threatened Evangeline and demanded her obedience. Rumors throughout the kingdom suggest he beat and murdered his first wife. Muriel catches Evangeline as she’s fleeing the palace. Muriel feels responsible for the girl, so she goes with her.

The women pose as laborers who have lost their master and are seeking work. Despite their moral aversion to lying, they decide to pass Evangeline off as a mute. Evangeline actually has a lovely singing voice that has earned her some notoriety.

As the women suspect, their ploy keeps the king’s men at bay for a while. A kind young lord named Westley offers them work. It is quickly evident that Evangeline has no skill as a laborer. Westley feels sorry for the girl (whom he knows as Eva) because Muriel has told him she lost her voice when a master beat her repeatedly.

Evangeline sees Westley’s friend John and another man attack Westley in the forest one day. They hit him in the head and leave him to drown. She rushes over and calls for help. A girl named Sabrina, who dislikes Evangeline and is desperate to marry Westley, hears Evangeline’s cries.

Sabrina doesn’t immediately report that Evangeline can speak, but she does take credit for having saved Westley. Evangeline tells Sabrina she must warn Westley about John’s murderous intentions, since Westley remembers nothing of the attack.

Sabrina eventually reveals Evangeline’s secret, and Westley is hurt that Evangeline lied to him. Evangeline doesn’t expect him to believe her, but she tells him John tried to kill him. He can’t imagine his old friend doing this, although he acknowledges the man has changed and become bitter since his father’s death.

John and Westley have different views on how the workers in the region should be treated. Evangeline’s character is further called into question when Sabrina gives her some mushrooms for the peasants’ evening meal. The mushrooms turn out to be mildly poisonous, enough to make the workers sick. The laborers attack Evangeline. Westley and his kind parents help bandage up the wounds she receives from the laborers.

Westley and Evangeline spend time together reading the Bible, since she’s never had access to the written text. She asks a servant named Reeve Folsham to teach her archery and knife throwing to use in self-defense. Little by little, she reveals the truth about her past to Westley. She tells him she is running from an unwanted marriage, but she won’t name the intended bridegroom.

When the king’s men question Westley in his village, he realizes his suspicions about Shiveley are true. He speaks to his parents and learns Shiveley’s first wife was their relative. His mother recalls how the woman was often covered in bruises. Westley and his parents vow to protect Evangeline from being forced into the marriage.

Muriel announces that she’s returning to the palace to marry a servant she loves. She says she will tell everyone Evangeline has died. Evangeline wrestles with her conscience in light of all of her lying. She often prays God will absolve her.

Westley and Evangeline secretly fall in love. Westley asks her to sing at a village festival, and she reluctantly agrees. At the festival, John and his men shove Evangeline in a sack. When they leave, she hears Sabrina’s voice. Sabrina admits she was wrong to love Westley. Now she intends to marry John, who wants to destroy Westley and obtain his land and power.

Evangeline uses her new skills to free herself. She threatens Sabrina until the girl tells her where John is taking Westley. Evangeline and Reeve Folsham injure John with arrows and rescue Westley.

Westley asks Evangeline to marry him. She wins the festival singing contest. Muriel's love, Frederick, arrives and tells Evangeline that Lord Shiveley has thrown Muriel into the dungeon and has had her tortured.

He says he believes Shiveley plans to usurp the throne. Westley and his men prepare to ride back to the castle with Frederick. Westley and Evangeline argue when he tells her not to come with them. She sneaks into the party on her own in disguise. When Westley discovers her, he is angry.

Shiveley and his men capture Westley’s group. A skirmish ensues, and Westley is pushed into the river. Shiveley mocks Evangeline when she pleads for Westley’s life. He takes Evangeline back to the palace and tells the king he wants the marriage to take place that night.

Westley survives his fall and makes his way to the palace. He bursts in on the king and tells him of Shiveley’s evil schemes. The king, Westley and his men rush to the wedding hall and defeat Shiveley’s men. Muriel is released. The king bestows Westley with the title of earl and gives him permission to marry Evangeline. They celebrate at a festival-like ceremony in Westley’s village.

Christian Beliefs

Evangeline frequently prays to God and Jesus. She and Westley read the Bible and ponder the meanings of various passages. Evangeline feels extreme guilt for lying about her identity. She hopes God will understand and forgive her. She wonders if she needs to confess to a priest to be absolved. She carves a message of repentance on the church’s baptismal font. She realizes she needs an all-powerful, loving God more than she needs a husband or a friend. In the end, she feels grateful to God for bringing her out of a life of loneliness and pain.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Westley’s parents are kind and attentive to the needs of the villagers. Evangeline notes they are loving toward each other with the kind of relationship she hopes to have.

Shiveley uses his influence over the young king to take charge of Evangeline. He abuses others, has abused a previous wife and tries to gain power in the kingdom.


Shiveley beat his first wife frequently and is suspected of killing her. He slaps Evangeline on the cheek. None of this is depicted in graphic detail.


One of Evangeline’s friends says her sister became pregnant after a man sweet-talked her and lured her into the woods. Evangeline and Westley kiss a number of times. A peasant makes a lewd comment, suggesting Evangeline go home with him. Westley intervenes.

Evangeline’s mother died shortly after she was born, and her father died not long after that. They weren’t married. Those who are royal often seem to have extra-marital affairs. Muriel and Evangeline are both born from such affairs.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: a villager gets drunk and beats his wife. Westley makes sure he receives punishment, because he won’t allow such behavior to be ignored.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

16 and up


Melanie Dickerson






Record Label



Thomas Nelson, a registered trademark of HarperCollins Christian Publishing Inc.


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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