Sunday, 24 February 2013

Book Review: Moonblood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

In a desperate bid to earn back the trust of his kingdom, Prince Lionheart banishes his only friend, Rose Red, to certain death. Now, his last hope for regaining his honor is to descend into the treacherous Wilderlands and find her.
But many perils stand in Lionheart's path. A mysterious Hunter is on his trail, a dangerous unicorn prowls the darker shadows, and Rose Red herself has been drawn into the hidden realm of Arpiar where the goblin king holds her captive for foul purposes of his own.With the help of a blind cat, an ugly knight, and the gentle Lady of the Haven, Lionheart can only hope he will find Rose Red before the Night of Moonblood . . . when the sleeping dragons will awake . . . 
-image and summary from

Moonblood is the third book in the series Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. It flows directly from the ending of Veiled Rose, so I highly suggest you read that one first. While I enjoyed Veiled Rose, I absolutely adored Moonblood. And here's why:

1.) The characters: Having read Heartless and Veiled Rose, I already had the background knowledge necessary to truly appreciate how Stengl wove the character interaction. Everyone stayed consistent while still growing. Some characters even backpedaled, showing sides to themselves that I wasn't sure existed. And Lionheart, despite his position as main protagonist, does not get any easy breaks, even at the end.

2.) The setting: If there is one fantasy world I will never tire of learning about, it is Stengl's Goldstone Wood. Like Tolkien, she gives just enough information about the world to entice us without revealing all her secrets. Secondary characters become real and vibrant entities, ones that make you wonder about their own histories. I especially loved the Tiger, and would love to see more stories about his exploits one day.

3.) The romance: It is very difficult to find romance that is pure but still has the power to break your heart. Without spoiling the book, I will simply say that sometimes fewer words says it all--and the ending, though happy, is not how bards would tell it.

4.) The writing: Lyrical--breezy at times, sombre at others. The song of Hymlume and the scene interwoven throughout made me cry. The sheer beauty of it--the grief and the longing for times of innocence and true love--I honestly had to blink very rapidly to keep from weeping like a child.

5.) The themes: I've heard it said that love is earned, and I think that's stupid, for reasons I will not get into. In the same way, redemption cannot be earned, because we can never atone for our sins the way we should. This book handles this idea very beautifully. I struggled along with Lionheart to accept this, and watching his struggle endeared me to his character for the first time in this series. I hated him in Heartless, was okay with him in Veiled Rose, and loved him in Moonblood. I hope this isn't the end of his story!

6.) Eanrin and Imraldera: I can't resist. They are two of my favourite fictional characters ever. Their moments in this book are few, but completely stole the show for me. Like I said before, Stengl says a lot in few words, and I was melting like chocolate. Though Eanrin has to stop being such a cat! (And if you don't understand a word of this, it means you have to hurry up and read this series to find out!)

I could go on and on about this book, but I have a midterm to study for and Dragonwitch to start pondering. Do yourself a favour and lose yourself in the series Tales of Goldstone Wood!

Five Stars!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Book Review: Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Rose Red trusts no one with her secret. She hides in the forest, her face veiled in rags, shunning the company of all save her old father and her nanny goat. Her life is bleak and lonely.

Until she meets a privileged young man sent to spend his summer in the mountains. Headstrong young Leo startles everyone by befriending Rose Red, and together they begin searching for the monster rumored to be stalking these lands.

But the hunt, which began as a game, holds greater risk than either imagines. Soon both are forced to test their trust in each other as a far more terrifying scourge puts their entire land at risk.

-image and summary from

Veiled Rose is the second book in the series "Tales of Goldstone Wood" by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. Having read Heartless, I came into this novel with a predetermined dislike of Lionheart, one of the principle characters. By the end, my view of him had changed and I even started to like him.

Meanwhile, Rose Red is a very loyal, easily likeable protagonist. Her goat, Beana, is simply delightful, and I found her a very fun addition to an otherwise very serious, thought-provoking novel. This is not the average fairy tale in that everyone's dreams come true--quite the opposite. Some people's dreams are very dangerous, and the novel makes one reconsider their own desires and how they might affect others around us. When the last page ended, I was very grateful that I had the next book, Moonblood, on hand.

That being said, I found Veiled Rose a bit slow in the start; it took me a few weeks to get to the halfway point. (Please keep in mind that I'm also a university student and have lots of other things on my plate as well.) But as soon as I reached that halfway mark, things started happening and I got sucked into the story. I was absolutely riveted--the Netherworld through which Rose Red journeys is both mysterious and chilling, and Lionheart's quest over many lands is long and interesting. I especially enjoyed his encounter with a young emperor, whom I hope we will see again in later books--he's so interesting I'd love for him to have his own book!

Another thing I must say is that in one of the blurbs, this story is described as 'romantic'. If you read that before starting this, it may be a tad misleading. There is definitely love in this book, but it's not of the all-consuming kind. It's merely a facet of these characters, and ends up being realistic and intricately woven into the characters without being overly angsty. Each character loves in layers and various strengths, and often are confused over their feelings and keep their true feelings to themselves. I appreciated this realistic approach by the author.

Lastly, I must confess that though she is one of the villains, I loved Lady Daylily. I found her dilemmas heartwrenching and could empathize with her struggles. Again, Anne Elisabeth Stengl has written a compelling villain that points out our own failings as humans while also tugging at our heartstrings. I hope Daylily finds a happy ending and that her story is far from over.

In the end, Veiled Rose may not be my favourite book of the series, but it is definitely worth its weight in gold and certainly deserved its Christie Award. And it is sure to entrance those who wander into the world of Goldstone Wood!

Four Stars!

**I received this book for free in a contest on Anne Elisabeth Stengl's blog (, but that has not affected my review in any way.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

The Problem With Valentine's Day

The problem with Valentine's Day isn't, as many singles surmise, that it exists--but that we singles have a problem with it. Why should we begrudge couples a chance to celebrate their love? Do dads denounce Mother's Day, or mothers moan about Father's Day? If you really want a day that makes you feel special, why not simply rally to create Singles' Day?

I just think we should stop complaining about it, and enjoy it for the candy and laugh at the mushy-cuteness of some people. Valentine's Day isn't meant to make singles feel inadequate, but give couples a chance to express themselves to one another. It's not all about us woeful, lonely people. And with so many girls saying they don't need guys nowadays, why should Valentine's Day bother them? They don't need it, right?

Just something to think about.

And now, in honour of this day, a poem:

The Path to Hello
He sees her walking down the hall
He knows her face but not her name
She has a nice smile
Sparkling eyes
And his heart tries to claw out from inside

She has a loud laugh; he can hear it from here
She's sitting on the far side of the cafeteria
His friends are saying something
Probably not that important
Dimly he hears chairs scrape back
All he knows is the echo of her laugh
When he returns to himself
His friends have left.

“You should talk to her,” they say.
He won't.
He's scrawny and artsy, not really her type
It's a risk he won't take
A cliff he won't leap from
A race he won't run
“Just say hello,” his sister says
When she finds out his secret
As all sisters do, with their spying ways
She's exasperated, they all are
But they don't understand
That he fears himself
That he's afraid
He's just not good enough
And when he says, “Hello”
Her sparkling eyes will dim
And she'll look at him like
He's as stupid as he feels

She sees him looking at her
Now and then
She looks away because she can't
They're from two different sides
Two different lives
She loves sports and the world outdoors
He's one of those film-nerd guys
But he opens doors for girls
And is quiet and polite
The sort of guy her mother would like
For her to bring home
When she glances back over her shoulder
He's gone.

Her friend says a joke
She laughs really loud
To see if he'll look
But it comes out like a crow's raucous croak
And she wonders how any boy could like a girl
Who sounds like she's perpetually choking

But she still sees him in the halls
They exchange nods and smiles
Sometimes his gaze is really intense
Or is she just making it up?
After all, he doesn't say a word to her
So maybe she's full of herself

But she likes the idea of him liking her
So maybe....she should just say hello?




Don't be stupid.
How absurd!
She's a jock, he's a nerd!
He'd probably look at her really strange
Then ask, what's her name again?

She has nothing to gain
(except him)
And everything to lose
(her pride)

Fear is so powerful here

And where fear is thick, I AM
I know the foolish pride of young hearts
Of chess pieces who refuse to play
Their part
So I must step in and change their course
To put them back on My Path
I make worlds and bring them together
I've made scales and stones and feathers
I'm not afraid of social standards
The world and everything in it
The first love story
--the one I orchestrated--
started with

Crap! He's late for class!

Shoot! She slept in!

He speed-walks down the hall

She runs.

This is no fun at all

She trips
Spills everything—coffee, books, papers
Splash, flutter, ugh
And here we go

He sees, slows

Keep going.
He kneels, gathers, looks up

He's here.
Don't say anything.
Shut up! She tells that silly voice
She smiles at him, feels a blush
Spread over her face

The red in her cheeks opens his mouth

Stripped are the labels
Nerd” and “jock”
Like it was at the start
Guy” and “girl”

The word pulses across his tongue
For a moment he clamps his mouth shut
It's a risk--

He says nothing
She panics
She smiles again
What else can she do?

She smiled! She smiled again!
like Jericho,
like paper
Fear un-becomes itself
The word breezes out

Like it did in that garden so long ago
Suspended in time, that word
Full of beauty and glory
Splendour and hope
The weight of the past
The eye of the future


Works every time

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY! :D Enjoy some chocolate!

Monday, 4 February 2013

When Characters Speak

I've read plenty of articles online about authors whose characters 'speak' to them, with the result that plot lines change and the entire book turns upside down. While writing Ice Roses, I'd encountered this in a minor scale. Characters I'd never known existed popped out of the framework of the story, but no major plot lines changed because of it. The extra characters merely added richness and flavour to what was already there, strengthening what I had without being too demanding.

With Ethereal, my Beauty and the Beast retelling, it's a different story. Yesterday, I was writing like I do every Sunday afternoon after church. (I try really hard not to do homework on Sundays, and I've found myself looking forward to them!)

Anyways, at the beginning of the novel, my main character--named Bria--encounters a fairly stereotypical jerk character. Though I'm ashamed to admit it, because it was a first draft I inserted him merely to help flesh out Bria and give hints to her background so I didn't have to dump the information like a ton of bricks. I'd planned on having him vanish after the first chapter or so, nothing more than a breath in the tornado.


His name is Kylor, and he Spoke. He showed me that he wasn't just the mean guy I was writing him to be--that he had the depth and the determination to become a Main Character. That he had a life beyond what Bria sees, and hopes and yearnings all his own. In some ways, he's even more heroic than Bria is. He has big dreams and yearns to see the larger picture of life, while Bria, in many ways, is childishly selfish and small-minded.

And thus, plots that I had been struggling to weave fell into place, spinning out of his inclusion. The epic fantasy I'm trying to create from this intimate fairy tale is possible because of Kylor and his demands to be a part of this story. I have a feeling that by the end, this rugged short guy is gonna be a favourite of mine. He's wormed his way into this novel--it's only natural that he should do the same with my heart. ;)

Because of him, I got very little sleep last night. I'd been idea-dry for a long time with this story, but his arrival brought a swarm of ideas that kept haunting me even after I turned out the light. I kept my notebook handy to write them all down. So, while I am exhausted this morning, I am ecstatic that this story is finally getting somewhere--and all because Kylor Spoke!