by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
(I realize that I promised this review and giveaway weeks ago, but an unreasonable amount of THINGS have happened since then, and it took a stomach virus to get me and both my kids stricken upon the sofa, whereupon I finally had time to write this while they watched a movie and this is the closest thing you will get to an apology for any writing issues below because I've got to find more pretzels for all the miserable tummies around here.
Where was I? Right. Review. Giveaway. Read on.)
'Fans of Tolkien... will be drawn into Stengl's effusive prose and wonderfully scary worlds... a series to stretch your imagination over several long winter nights." - USA Today
Whatever, USA Today. Quit playing it so close to the vest. Just admit that you are wildly in love with the most fantastic recent incarnation of the fairy tale. There are good reasons that I keep her award-winning Tales of Goldstone Wood series right next to my beloved Lord of the Rings set. This author makes every reader laugh, every girl sigh, every stalwart man cry. And she makes a mean cup of tea.
I admit, I could be a little biased. But even if she wasn't one of the most kind, generous, faithful, loving, beautiful, and brilliant cat-tamers I know, I'd still order random strangers to run out and buy her books at once. Because what Ms. Stengl does so marvelously well is hard to find anywhere else.
It's called growth.
Beginning with 'Heartless' (2011 Christy Award for Best Debut Novel), the reader is entranced by a fantastic world, a timeless princess tale, and the beautiful ideals that have been missed since the days of George McDonald and C.S. Lewis. 'Veiled Rose' pulls the audience further back, paints the tapestry wider, and allows the reader to see the complexities of what a fantastic world means (Also, best children characters I've seen in a long time). 'Moonblood' dares to you to ask the darker questions, to see in yourself all the selfish ambition we think of as 'love', and how the world is greater than one need or one desire. Basically, with every question answered, there are a hundred more to ask, and I never finish a single one of her books without needing:
a.) several days to ruminate on the brilliance and
b.) the next novel. Now.
'Dragonwitch' is my standing favorite (but 'Shadowhand' releases very soon and you are going to LOVE it), if only for the tropes which are handled so masterfully and with such tongue-in-cheek genius. It is the largest ensemble cast that Ms. Stengl has offered, but each character draws the reader's mind and heart too completely to be lost in the beautiful tangle of objectives. And remember what I mentioned earlier about growth? It's inescapable. For the characters and for the reader.
There is a moment, as a child, when every one of us begins to understand real consequence. When the Disney glitter fades away and loss is real and inescapable. When what we will lose in irreplaceable. When how we choose to sacrifice or flee will define our character and shape us forever.
And those are the moments which Ms. Stengl never fails to deliver with honesty and depth, while never losing the glitter. Her stories are incredible, her plots complex, and her settings stunning, but what sets her apart from all others (in my rarely humble opinion) is her ability to create good and evil which never fails to ring true.
This is not to say that one is manipulated into feeling sorry for the bad guy, or the good guy turns out to be the bad guy, or any of those grayer ideals which are the refuge of cowardly authors everywhere. What Dragonwitch delivers with masterful artistry is the rawness of evil and the desperately broken good in every character (and every reader). What Dragonwitch offers is what good fantasy everywhere is founded on; the Truth that is true in every reality.
Still not convinced? Then I'll make you an offer. The long-awaited GIVEAWAY!
'Starflower', book four of the series, is an excellent prequel to all the other novels. It is the winner of the 2013 Clives Staples Lewis award and features most prominently my two favorite characters. And I'm giving away one SIGNED copy (just to get you sucked into the glory of Goldstone Wood)!
1. Follow this blog.
2. Leave a comment below.
Then call your friends and ask them to follow and leave a comment below, because if they win, then you can borrow the book when they're done! (And that's the whole point of having friends, right?)
Who doesn't love FREE books?
* Giveaway closes March 25th. *