The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway
Published March 14, 2023
About The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway
Since her mother’s death, Madeline “Gwen” Hathaway has been determined that nothing in her life will change ever again. That’s why she keeps extensive lists in journals, has had only one friend since childhood, and looks forward to the monotony of working the ren faire circuit with her father. Until she arrives at her mother’s favourite end-of-tour stop to find the faire is under new management and completely changed.
Meeting Arthur, the son of the new owners and an actual lute-playing bard, messes up Maddie’s plans even more. For some reason, he wants to be her friend – and ropes her into becoming Princess of the Faire. Now Maddie is overseeing a faire dramatically changed from what her mother loved and going on road trips vastly different from the routine she used to rely on. Worst of all, she’s kind of having fun.
Ashley Schumacher’s THE RENAISSANCE OF GWEN HATHAWAY is filled with a wise old magician who sells potion bottles, gallant knights who are afraid of horses and ride camels instead, kings with a fondness for theatrics, a lazy river castle moat with inflatable crocodile floaties, and a plus-sized heroine with a wide-open heart… if only she just admits it.
Is there anyone who writes complicated grief like Ashley Schumacher? I’ve read all three of her books, and loved all of them. THE RENAISSANCE OF GWEN HATHAWAY introduces Madeline, a girl who’s approaching the first anniversary of her mom’s death– and her mom’s favorite Renaissance Fair, which has been redesigned by new owners. So, her grief over losing her mom and how it’s changed her life irreversibly gets kind of mirrored by this other big event. I thought it was really clever to pair those two things so closely together.
I really liked Maddie’s character, too. She’s a loner, but not in a sad, get-that-girl-some-friends kind of way. She’s an introvert who treasures close relationships with a few people.
The only thing that worried me at first was Arthur’s approach to Madeline. He gives her a nickname she doesn’t like, and plays the “I know what you need better than you do” card, which tends to rub me the wrong way. It’s a little too close to refusing to respect someone’s “no.”
However, in several scenes, Arthur listens to Madeline’s preferences and quickly adjusts his behavior in response to her boundaries, so I liked that. And I liked that it became clear that wasn’t his whole approach to relationships with girls.
One of the subplots of the story is the evolution of how Madeline feels about her body and how she behaves in response to those feelings. She’s a curvy girl who still carries some hurts from unkind things people have said to her. When Arthur first asks her to be the Fair princess, she has a hard time believing he’s serious, or that accepting the role won’t open her up to ridicule. But as she begins to explore what makes her comfortable in her own skin, she realizes that some of the things she’s been thinking about herself aren’t reality-based. And she finds ways to shop and dress that make her feel good. I liked that journey, and I especially liked that while it didn’t happen in a vaccuum– there were people who influenced her here and there– it was still her journey.
All in all, I loved this book. It had lots of goofy moments and starry-eyed love. I think fans of Jenn Bennett should definitely check out THE RENAISSANCE OF GWEN HATHAWAY.
Recommended for Ages 12 up.
Arthur has two dads.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently.
Kissing between boy and girl.
Madeline carries a coin that, according to family lore, predicts the future. She flips the coin before making big decisions. She feels bound by the coin’s predictions, especially since it predicted her mom’s death from cancer.
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