Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald's offer--and ignores his warnings. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir, and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in grave danger. Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.
About the Author
Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she's not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, and Starflower. Heartless, Veiled Rose, and Dragonwitch have each been honored with a Christy Award. Learn more at anneelisabethstengl.blogspot.com
Read an Excerpt
HeartlessTales of Goldstone Wood
By Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Bethany House PublishersCopyright © 2010 Anne Elisabeth Stengl
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFive Years Later
"Do you think they will come before the year is out?" Princess Una asked her nurse.
"Who will come?" her nurse replied.
"Suitors, of course!"
Though the sun was bright, the air blew chill through the open window that spring morning, and Una wrapped a shawl around her shoulders as she sat waiting for Nurse to finish the awful business of preparing her for the day. Nurse, who had long since ceased to function as a real nurse and these days played the part of maid and busybody to her princess, wielded a brush with the tenderness of a gardener raking last year's dead leaves, making every effort to tame Una's honey-colored hair into an acceptable braid. One would have expected that, with many years' practice, she might have acquired rather more gentleness. Not so Nurse.
She paused now, mid-tug, and scowled at Una's reflection in the glass. "What brings on this fool talk?" She raised a bushy eyebrow and gave the braid an extra tug, as though to wrest all the unruliness out of it in one go. "You keep your mind busy with your lessons and deportment, just as always, and leave that messy business of courting and arranging marriages to your father, as is right." "But I'm of age!" Una winced again and tried not to pull away from the vicious brush. She twisted her mouth into an unattractive shape as pain shot through her scalp. "Papa always said that he wouldn't accept a single inquiry from a single prince or single dignitary in a single realm of the whole Continent until I came of age."
"As is right."
"Well, now that I'm eighteen, shouldn't he start receiving them? When will they come to pay their respects?" To pay their respects, according to the definition given the phrase by the courtiers of Oriana Palace, was a tactful way to say, investigate marriage possibilities with the resident princess.
"That's not for you to be speculating, Miss Princess," said Nurse. She pronounced it "speckle-ating." Una dared not laugh. Though Nurse had not been brought up to speak an elegant dialect, her ideas on what was and was not proper behavior for a princess went far beyond anything Una had ever learned from her decorum instructors.
"Suitors indeed! Why, in my day, a girl never put two thoughts together concerning a boy—not till her father gave her the go-ahead."
"Not even when—"
Nurse whapped the top of Una's head with the back of the brush. "No more! There, you're tidy as mortal hands can make you. Get you gone to your morning tutorials, and I don't want to hear another word of this romantic drivel!"
Rubbing the top of her head, Una gathered herself up, grabbed an armload of books, and made her way to her chamber doors, muttering, "I like romantic drivel." She stepped from the room and, just as the door swung shut behind her, called over her shoulder, "Your day was a singularly unromantic one, Nurse!"
The door clunked, and Nurse's voice came muffled from behind. "You'd better believe it!"
Una glared at the closed door. A demanding "Meeeowl?" at her feet drew her gaze, and she looked down at her cat, Monster, who sat before her, his tail curled elegantly about his paws. He seemed to smile all over his furry face, despite his lack of eyes.
She wrinkled her nose at him. "Don't look so smug."
With that, she turned on her heel and marched down the corridor, the blind cat trotting behind, unlike a dog in every way because, of course, he wasn't truly following her. He merely happened to be going her way.
"Nothing in life is as romantic as it should be, Monster," Una said as they made their way along the white hall and down a graceful staircase. She nodded civil acknowledgements to members of the household who greeted her as she passed. "Here I am, a princess, of age to be courted and married, and where am I? On my way to another history lesson! Then there'll be a tutorial on the proper ways to address ambassadors from Beauclair as opposed to dignitaries from Shippening. Then dancing. And not a single respects-paying gentleman of certain birth as far as the eye can see." She sighed at the heaviness of the world. "Nothing ever changes, Monster."
"Meeaa?" the cat said.
Una looked down her nose at him. "You're not just saying that, are you? Trying to make me feel better?"
"I knew it." She sighed again. "Someday, Monster, won't you express an original idea? For me?"
Felix waited for her in the large but nonetheless stuffy classroom they shared, doodling caricatures of their tutor in the margins of an essay he was supposed to be composing. He scarcely looked up when Una entered. Monster took a moment to rub a cheek against the young prince's knee before dodging Felix's backhand and arranging himself on the windowsill to catch the sunlight.
Una took a seat and opened her book just as the tired-eyed tutor shuffled in. He fortified himself behind his desk, attached a pair of spectacles in place—which made his eyes seem still more tired—and looked upon his students with the air of a man resigned to his fate.
"At what are you so diligently working, Prince Felix?" he asked. His voice never varied from a mournful drone.
Felix held up his essay full of doodles.
The tutor winced. "Most amusing, Your Highness."
"See how big I made the nose on this one?"
"A remarkable likeness, Your Highness."
"Doesn't look a thing like him," Una said.
Felix made a face. "Not supposed to. This one's you."
The tutor closed his eyes during the ensuing argument and let the storm pass. When at last calm returned, he slowly creaked his eyelids back up and dared face the world again. "Prince Felix, do you recall at what passage we left off our reading yesterday?"
"I do," Una said.
"He was talking to me!"
She continued, "We were studying the rise of Corrilond in the year of the Sleeper's Awakening during the reign of King Abundiantus IV—"
The tutor shoved his glasses up onto his forehead and rubbed his eyes. It was a day like all others, a mirror of yesterday and a foretelling of tomorrow: The prosperous sameness and drudging boredom of lives placidly spent proceeding as endlessly as the mind could conceive. Nothing ever really changed, and as far as anyone in Oriana Palace could surmise, nothing ever would.
But then, something did.
* * *
For two hundred years they had not been seen.
They first appeared as deeper shadows among the shadows of the Wood, all staring eyes and sniffing noses, as wary as children dipping a toe in deep water, fearful to take a dive.
Then one stepped forth, and he, with a smile, beckoned to the others. A huge creature with eyes as wide and white as the moon and skin like craggy rocks followed with a strange grace of movement; behind him walked another who was black as a shadow but whose eyes shone like the sky. After these came the others. Out of the Wood they streamed in parade—carrying with them the scent of dusk, the sound of dawn—and they arranged themselves upon the lawn outside the walls of the city of Sondhold, in the shadow of Goldstone Hill.
A shepherd boy saw them first. His heart leapt with fear at the sight, though not because of their strangeness, for such strangeness he had witnessed a thousand times in dreams. Rather, he feared that he dreamed them now and that, as soon as his old dad caught him snoozing at his watch, he'd fetch a hiding and perhaps be sent to bed without supper. So he pinched himself, and when that did not work, he pinched himself again.
His lazy flock all lifted their heads, regarded the oncoming throng a moment, and then returned to their grazing. But the quick-eyed herding dog let out a joyous bark and left the shepherd, left the flock, and ran to greet the strangers as though welcoming long-lost friends.
Then the boy jumped up and ran as well, shouting as he went. But he ran the opposite direction, down the dusty path toward Sondhold. Though he had only ever seen them in dreams, he recognized those who came.
"The market! The market!" he cried. The guards at the gates let him through, calling derisively after him, but he paid them no mind. "The market!" he shouted, gathering too much speed so that he lost his balance and scraped the skin from his palms and knees. But he was up again in a flash, shouting all the louder. "The Twelve-Year Market is come from the Wood!"
The very oldest grandmama in all Sondhold could only just recall her old grandmama talking about her grandmama's visit to the Twelve-Year Market. Many families in the city boasted prized heirlooms, strange oddities handed down from father to son, mother to daughter, for generations. A silver spoon that never tarnished; a kettle that sang familiar old tunes when the water boiled; a mug that never let the tea grow cold; a pair of boots that, if polished with the right stuff, would carry a man seven leagues in a step—too bad the polish ran out ages ago. The items once purchased at the Twelve-Year Market were rare and wonderful indeed, items of Faerie make and ever so expensive. But the Twelve-Year Market was the stuff of stories.
Until it showed up on the lawn below Goldstone Hill that day in early spring, soon after Princess Una came of age.
A washerwoman hanging up her second load of the day to dry paused in her work, her wrinkled white fingers momentarily still as the shepherd boy ran by. "The Twelve-Year Market!" he bellowed as he went, and she dropped the clean shirt—dropped it right in the dust—brushed off her apron, and hitched up her skirts to hasten from the city, out to the green lawn.
The boy ran on, shouting, "The market! The market is come!"
Merchants by the docks closed up booths and locked away their wares.
"The market!" the shepherd boy cried.
The cobbler's wife and the baker's sister ceased their gossip, blinked startled eyes, and joined the merchants.
The boy went on, shouting until he was too hoarse to make himself heard, but by then his work was complete. The folks of Sondhold streamed through the gates: the washerwoman, the merchants, the cobbler's wife and her brood of children, even the guards who were supposed to stand at the gates. They all made their way down the dusty track from the city to the lawn below the hill. There they beheld the Faerie bazaar.
They stopped on the fringes, afraid to go forward.
The first to hail them was a man so incredibly ancient that his upper lip nearly reached his chin. His skin was like a walnut, and his eyes like acorn caps. A big black sow pulled his rickety cart, on which two enormous pots of alabaster hummed, as though some musical instrument played the same three notes again and again inside. Water sloshed as he lifted them down, and the city folk could hear the creak of every joint in his body, a crackling percussion accompanying the humming.
When he saw the gathering crowds his acorn-cap eyes winked twice, first with fear, then with a smile. "Come!" he cried, raising a gnarled hand, beckoning. "Come, folk of the Near World! Come inspect my wares! Unicorn fry, fresh from the sea, caught just this morning—or last century, depending on your view. Learning to sing; hear them for yourself! Come hear the sea unicorn young as they sing!"
The folk of Sondhold looked from him to each other, afraid to move closer, unwilling to leave.
Then the cobbler's wife took hold of her youngest son and strode boldly to the lawn, her chin set in defiance though the baker's sister called a warning to her. "I'd like a look," she told the old man with the acorn-cap eyes.
He grinned and lifted the lid of one jar. The strange humming filled the air, only three notes dancing in the ears of all those near, but the sweetest three notes ever played together.
The cobbler's wife stood on tiptoe to peer inside. "Coo!" she breathed. Then, "May I show the boy?"
The old man nodded, and she lifted her littlest one to peer into the alabaster jar. The child made a solemn inspection and finally declared, "Pretty."
"Unicorn fry!" the old man cried. "Caught fresh this morning! I'll sell them at a bargain, good dame, and you can raise one at home, hear sweet music every day!"
With that, the market truly opened. The crowd standing on the edges of the lawn could not bear to miss whatever wonders lay just before them, and they flooded in to inspect the hundred colorful stalls. The lawn below Goldstone Hill was suddenly as merry as a festival, as noisy as a circus, as frantic as a holiday. Music sang from all corners, outlandish music on outlandish instruments played by even more outlandish people. But although the songs were different, somehow they blended into each other in cheerful harmonies, often underscored by a low, melancholy tune that heightened the curiosity and the fun of those who browsed the many stalls.
Word spread fast. Soon all of Sondhold was bestirred. Working girls feigned sickness to be excused, and schoolboys made no pretense of attending classes. The washerwoman let the dirtied white shirt lie untouched, and the smithy allowed his fires to die. How could anyone attend to mundane things on the day of the Twelve-Year Market?
The hubbub bubbled all the way to the crest of Goldstone Hill and flowed on into the palace, where Princess Una sat with her nose in her history text, wallowing in academic misery. Dates and battles and dead kings' names swam before her eyes while spring fever, cruel and demanding, picked at the back of her brain. She and her brother had ceased their squabbling for the time being, and their tutor's voice filled the room in one long, endless drone that commanded no one's attention, least of all the tutor's.
Monster stood up on the windowsill. He stretched, forming an arch with his body, and flicked the plume of his tail. Then, after a quick wash to make certain his whiskers were well arranged, he interrupted the lecture.
The tutor droned on without a glance at the cat. "Abundiantus V was never intended to sit upon his father's throne, being the second son—"
"Meaaa!" Monster said, with more emphasis this time. He unsheathed his claws and scratched the window, a long grating noise.
"Dragon-eaten beast." Felix threw a pencil at the cat's nose, missing by inches.
"Princess Una," the tutor said, "we have had this discussion. Would you kindly remove that creature from the room so that our studies may continue uninhibited?"
Una huffed and went to the window. But when she reached for him, Monster made himself heavy and awkward, slipping through her grasp. He landed back on the windowsill with another "Meeeaa!" and pressed his nose to the glass.
Una looked out.
She saw the colors. She saw the movement. She saw the dancing far below, as though she was suddenly gifted with an eagle's eyes and able to discern every detail even at that great distance. Wonderingly, she opened the window, and music carried up Goldstone Hill and filled the room.
"Oh," she said.
"Meeeea." Monster looked smug.
Felix was on his feet and at her side in a moment. He too looked down. "Oh," he said.
The tutor, frowning, came around from behind his desk and joined them at the window. He looked as well and saw what they saw. His mouth formed an unspoken "Oh."
A clatter of hooves in the courtyard drew their gazes, however unwillingly, from the sight down the hill. Una and her brother saw their father, King Fidel, mounting up with a company of his guard around him. Brother and sister exchanged a glance and bolted for the door, falling over themselves in a headlong dash from the chamber, down the stairs, and out to the courtyard, heedless of the tutor's feeble attempts to restrain them. Monster trailed at their heels.
"Father!" Una burst into the courtyard, shouting like a little girl and hardly caring that she drew the eyes of the stable boys and footmen standing by. King Fidel, upon his gray mount, looked back at his daughter. "Father!" she cried. "Are you going to see?" She did not have to say what.
"Yes, Una," Fidel replied. "I must make certain all is well below."
"May we come?" Una said, and before the words were all out of her mouth, Felix was shouting to the stable boys, "My horse! Bring my horse!"
King Fidel considered a moment, his eyebrows drawn. But the day was fine, the air was full of holiday spirit, and his children's faces were far too eager to refuse. "Very well."
Una and Felix rode on either side of him as he descended the King's Way, the long road that wound down Goldstone Hill to the teeming lawn. The breath of the ocean whipped in their faces, carrying the spice of other worlds up from below.
Excerpted from Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl Copyright © 2010 by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. Excerpted by permission of Bethany House Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Heartless, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, is a story of love and adventure. It is a fantasy novel about dragons and princesses and kings and magic. It is the story of 18 year old Una and how she finds her path to true love. This book was nothing I was expecting it to be. When you see the beautiful cover and read the back, you assume it will be a sleeping beauty type story. Handsome hero fights the evil dragon and claims beautiful heroin as his own. The plot however, was a far cry from the expected. Una is of marriageable age and the suitors begin to come calling. She scorns anyone who does not meet her expectations for romance and adventure and soon finds that true love is more than simple excitement. The twists and turns in this book will take you for a wild ride and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys romance, fantasy, or just a good read. What I liked about this book: My favorite aspect of this book is the metaphorical. This book could be taken from the Bible. One of the characters, Una's main suitor Prince Aethelbald, is undeniably representing Jesus. And the dragon represents satan. I have read representations of the gospel before, and nothing compared to this. It is essentially a love story between Jesus and you. The theology is bang on too. For example, the dragon (or satan) could not take Una until she had given up all hope and gave in to him. To me, this was one of the most monumental truths in the book. That satan cannot have us as the rightful bride of Christ, unless we lose faith and hope in God and give ourselves to him. What I didn't like about this book: Una is naiive, her view of love and life is a bit cliche. As a married sceptic of the wonder and joy and perfection and romance that young people think love is sickens me. Love is work, love is so much deeper than the thrill of his hand touching yours or the butterflies in your stomach. That is not love at all. So, to say the least, Una's perspective drives me nuts in the beginning. It isn't until life gives her a good knock on the head that I find her more tolerable as a person. Who this book is good for: This book is pretty much the perfect gift for a teenage girl. They are naiive enough to be sucked into the romance and love story, and the metaphor of Jesus will give you something to discuss afterwards. They will be able to relate to Jesus in a whole new way as they see him as a suitor instead of a sacrificial lamb that is hard to picture and understand. All in all, although there were things that drove me nuts, Heartless is a great book for anyone to read. I would strongly suggest reading it yourself before giving it to your daughter, or niece, or whoever as it will give you time to think about the many similarities in the book and the Bible. I highly enjoyed this book, it is one of the best I have read in a long time, despite my scepticism! **I received a free copy of this book through Baker Publishing Group
This book was a true gem. This should be more popular than it is. I work at a Barnes in Noble in NC close to where Stengl is from and I saw a pamphlet about other Barnes and Noble booksellers who have had their work published. I noticed she was an artist as well and my heart lept because that sounded like me to the T. Heartless sounded like something I would read and I wanted to give a local artist a chance. I'm so happy I did! Her writing was so fluid and poetic that it reminded me of a classic with everything you want from a book today. It felt like the story that one imagines when looking at a Lady of Shallot Pre-Raphaelite painting. I read a lot of Young adult books and many of them don't even compare. I'm so excited to read her next book about Rose Red!
I just finished and thoroughly enjoyed Heartless! The book had that perfect balance of truly classic fantasy, with a wonderful sense of humor (and drama, of course)! I just LOVED all of the characters! Anne did a great job developing them early on, so it was really easy to get wrapped up in the story as it got going. Even the more peripheral characters are unique and imaginative. Princess Una was exactly what I thought she should've been as a young woman, sorting things out in her head. Her brother Felix had that great feel of total immaturity, but yet just really wanting to be the hero. Leonard the Jester was so interesting from the first time you met him, and I can't wait to see where his story goes!! But my favorite by far was Prince Aethelbald. I loved Him instantly! Just like every scene in Narnia when Aslan is present has a special tenderness, so does every scene with the Prince. You can just feel his longing and compassion for every person that he encounters. Absolutely beautiful! The villain of the story was multi-layered in a way that I wasn't expecting. Someday, I think I'd really like to see him on the big screen. I'm totally captivated by his whole demeanor and appearance.very intriguing! And I love how subtle he could be with the way he treated other characters. It was really fascinating that he wasn't all "flame and rage." All in all a very enjoyable and compelling read. I can't wait to see what happens next!
Stengl's first novel in the Goldstone Wood series is a magical adventure fantasy lovers will savor. Dragon battles, swordfights, princes in disguise, faeries, and more than a touch of romance-Heartless has it all. The vivid, whimsical images are beautifully drawn, and the darker pictures are truly fearsome. The characters make a strong impression, even (especially) the cat, Monster. (I dearly hope we get more of his story and eerily realistic feline vocabulary in future books.) Stengl's turn of phrase is unique and thoroughly enjoyable; wickedly funny at times, she also has a knack for dramatic description. While the story possesses many of the traditional features of a fantasy, it portrays them in unusual ways. There are many tales of princesses and dragons, but this particular tale does not unfold in the way one would expect. While there is Christian allegory in the book, it does not intrude unnecessarily. The theme of unselfish love is one that readers will appreciate, regardless of their religious beliefs. Very little well-done Christian YA fiction exists, in my opinion, but Stengl is poised to revive the genre. I look forward to her next book with great anticipation!
HEARTLESS is classical in style and plot yet original, pure fun yet thought-provoking. The story builds slowly, seeming light and frothy at first, until midway through when it takes off in a totally unexpected direction, and from there the pace never slows. It is a book to read again and again and always discover something new. Don't be fooled by the trite back cover copy-this book is something more. Princess Una is the kind of selfish, spoiled character nobody wants to be but many of us are to some extent. We laugh at her delusions and vanity, yet what girl doesn't long for faithful love from a dashing hero? A reader can identify with Una's pain as her dreams are stripped away, leaving her disillusioned and desperate, still lying to herself and refusing steadfast love from the one person who offers it because her pride won't let her admit that she was wrong. And oh yes, the end of the story is deeply satisfying! Other characters remain in my thoughts long after I finished reading-most of them can't be described in a few words because they are so complex and real, even though they're fictional. I want to read more about Monster the cat, Prince Aethelbald, Felix, Leonard the jester, the various princes and knights and villains. The Dragon is a multi-faceted villain such as one doesn't often see in modern YA literature. There is something here for everyone who loves fantasy adventure-my 14-year-old son ranks HEARTLESS among his favorite books. The story is complete in itself, yet there are many hints of future tales and fascinating history tucked within its pages. LOVE IT!
This might be the best new author this year! My best friend recommended the book to me since I'm a huge fan of Young Adult fiction. I have to say that I'm usually pretty critical, but Stengl's style and form are so refreshing! I can't remember the last time I enjoyed the craftsmanship in a book for young adults so much. Sure, her characters are less "deep" than some, but I appreciate the choice that allows much more for imagination (stylistically like M.W. Turner). After so many YA bestsellers that rely on gimmick and emotion (are you hearing this, Ms. Meyer?), it's fantastic that the publishing industry has finally started looking for quality again. I cannot recommend this enough (I intend to buy several copies for all my friends), and I look forward to this author's growth. Is it true that there are more books planned? And why don't I see this on more recommended book lists?
“You gave your heart for nothing, and now you have nothing, do you? Poor little Una. You are heartless now, aren’t you? No better then a dragon yourself.” From the surface, Heartless is fairytale about a princess, a prince, and a dragon. But delve in deeper and you will find a story that is happening all around us. Princess Una is a believable girl. She finds her brother annoying, she loves her cat, she attempts to write poetry, and—surprise—she dreams of her future husband. But her first suitor hardly meets the requirements of her romantic notions. According to her, Prince Athelbald is boring. Okay, so he’s a prince of a great realm, loyal, patient, kind, humble, courageous, and her father likes him. But he isn’t handsome and does not constantly sing her praises. As far as Una is concerned, he’s not an option. Una’s dreams crash and burn as other suitors come and go, but then she meets someone else. He’s funny, kind, cute, charming, and has a tragic back-story. Before she knows it, Una has given her heart away…to a man she barely knows. And now, Una is in deadly danger from a Dragon who has been searching the lands for one person—her. Will any of the men who professed love be willing to come to her rescue? In the obvious light, the book shows that giving your heart away to the wrong person is extremely dangerous and destructive. We see that today’s idea of romance and love is shallow and undependable; that real love is self-sacrificial. But look closer at this tale, and you will see a powerful allegory of Christ and his love for rebellious us. Una is so real, she could be a girl you know (well, maybe not the royal title). We know the theme of the book is true, because it’s happening every day. Girls let emotions fly for guys, maybe even nice guys, and end up hurt and dissatisfied. Or in Una’s case…destroyed. Modern culture portrays love as an emotion. Real love isn’t. It’s selfless actions. Heartless is very clean. There’s zero language, mild violence, and no inappropriate content. But beware; halfway through the story, the book changes from a whimsical fairytale to an extremely intense epic which could be a bit heavy for young, inexperienced readers. That finally got the guy’s attention. Extremely intense epic? Yes. Sure, this book and the following series, is directed to girls. But guys can (and do) enjoy this book as well. The first half might be a bit hard for them to muscle through, but it isn’t completely girly. There’s Una’s teenage, mischievous, aspiring brother Felix, the mysterious and skilled Prince Athelbald, evil dragons, and a certain blind cat. (Let me just say that the certain blind cat is my favorite character in the entire series!) Heartless is the first book in “The Tales of Goldstone Wood” series and while it can be enjoyed by itself, you’d be missing out by not reading the next books. This is my favorite series and I highly recommend it!
The author has deep insight into the inner struggles of Christians and is able to convey them to the reader with beautiful imagery. I'm a big fan of allegory and have not enjoyed a book this much since Hinds Feet on High Places, which was published many years ago. Ms. Stengl is clearly a gifted writer, and I eagerly look forward to reading any and all of her books.
This book feels difficult for me to review. I actually loved the story. I thought the story line was great, and it was a lovely allegorical tale. However, I feel that I have to give it three stars because the section in the middle when the Dragon comes was just SO confusing. I understand that sometimes in a book things have to be explained later in the story, but these things weren't explained. They were just confusing and I think that was due to a lack of clarity in the writing. I also feel like some of the characters could have been better developed. They felt a bit one dimensional to me. I did enjoy the story though and it gave me some surprises along the way, which is always nice.
Ah, escaping to a different land, a different time and a different everything- isn't that a major reason to read a book? In the words of C.S Lewis "Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again". Well I guess I am there with Anne Elisabeth Stengl's newest book in her Tales of Goldstone Wood series Veiled Rose. (Or rather in my case, I don't think I ever stopped reading them). If you are a fantasy fan that loves to read of princes and princesses, dragons and the netherworld then this book is for you. Our 2 main characters are both intriguing and complex with regards to what they are looking for in this life. Our heroine Rose red has a secret that is hidden behind her special veils- all designed to hide who she really is. She has lived a lonely existence in the forest and hills above Hill House- a mansion housing young Leo who is visiting his relatives for the summer. And Leo is our little boy longing for adventure and looking to defeat the Monster of the hills. He finds adventure all right, but more prominently he finds a fast and true friendship with Rose Red that grows in importance as they do in age throughout the book. As young Leo is the crowned prince of the Southlands or "Prince Lionheart" as he is known later in the novel, the pressures of his title irk him ,as all he would really like to be is a jester who entertains all those around them with juggling and a song (sung out of tune mind you, but never mind that). Unfortunately both Rose Red and Lionheart have to take separate journeys to try and save the kingdom from the wrath of the Dragon (enter villain), who is absolutely hell-bent on having Rose Red as his very own. This story is full of adventure, excitement and quite allegorical. The struggles each character goes through in the end show what each is really made of, in how it manifests in their choices. I honestly did not guess Rose Red's secret until it was revealed to me in the end and I love that when an author can pull that off, it's pretty rare for me. I will not give that secret away in this review- read it for yourself and find out! The pull of evil in our lives is strong and this book illustrated it beautifully while also showing the great hope and love that the light offers. A great read and one I really recommend. I had not read Heartless before I read this book and did just fine, so now I will have to backtrack and read it. 4 stars. I was graciously provided a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House publishers in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.
The cover drew me into beginning this book one hot afternoon and I read it until I finished it that night! I loved it of course. I can't wait to see what happens to Felix and what type of girl might eventually win his heart and sword. I loved the unique twist to dragon mythology. I love the idea of a 12 yr. market. I love the fact that a big yellow cat is such an important character! Heartless began with the easy pace you would expect in an author's primier novel but then at the end - boom - the characters you had fallen in love with were swept up in advetures of a grander scale than your average afternoon read. Heartless is full of analogy without being obvious and full of charm without being trite. I was left with questions at the end as to how the principal characters will react to the changes brought on by Una's decisions. This has left me hoping for a sequal. If you are a fan of dragons, princesses, unusual princes and unique twists to the basic fairy tale - Heartless is a great book to add to your summer reading list!
A well written piece, which in this genre has become rarer and rarer - just because the events don't take place in this world and are therefore at times both magical and terrible . . . does not mean the writing has to be ghastly! Ms. Stengl obviously understands and appreciates this, and has worked hard at writing a good piece of literature, full of imagination and innovation, while not taking for granted that even the most imaginative work has to be well told. It's fantasy, in the very best of traditions, and even a nod to familiar fairy tales (seven league boots) but with the author's own take on it. Another rarity - this author is unapologetic in her take on it, which is nice to see; the characters are bold and well thought out, as is the world she has created. One hopes that this is but a brief glance into her world, and a brief display of Stengl's prowess, with a much fuller view to come.
Miss Stengl's debut novel is compelling. Princess Una truly comes of age as she learns about her own fickle heart and the truth regarding what and whom to trust. I look forward to visiting Farthestshore again and learning more about Lionheart and Eanrin and Felix and Sir Oeric and, of course, the dragons. Write quickly Miss Stengl!
Heartless was unusual and breathtaking. I was leaning toward five stars, but I decided on four stars because there were some spots where I grew impatient. Other than that, I loved it! It was beautiful and completely different from anything else I've read. It didn't follow any sort of cannon for fantasy novels. It was new and fresh and it threw things at me that I didn't see coming. At the beginning, Una was shallow and silly. She desperately wanted to fall in love with someone handsome or charismatic. The man that loved her was neither. As events progressed, the reason for her earlier shallow behavior became obvious. She changed a lot during the course of the book, and I loved her by the end. Aethelbald is a character that I loved the whole way through. He was a true prince. Heartless is appropriate for anyone 12 and up. It is squeaky clean, full of adventure, and beautifully written. I would definitely recommend it to anyone that likes fantasy and dragons. Content: clean
Allegory is such that if flawed, reduces the story completely, but if done with precision and care of the emotive spirit, will bring tears to the most hardened. Heartless exceeds any recent similar work and sets a New high water mark. Place this volume next to The Great Divorce, The Pilgrims Progress, and refer back to often. Must read for all homeschool, private schools, hopefully someday, the public schools. I do not mean it is only for children, I'm 55 and loved it.
Hey you, I never read anything....I'm serious....and my friend got me this book on my nook and she said just read until chapter 5 so I'm like ok that's easy enough...but it wasnt , the prologue and chapter 1 were sooooooooo slow but I still read them and by chap. 2 it started getting really interesting! I love this book so much! You should totally read it. If there were more stars to rate it with you would loose count on how many there would be! Lol I would say this book should be for teenagers not younger well idk maybe........really good book
About a young woman coming of age to marry, the consequences of her choices and the offer of redemption. I found the imagery brilliant, the flow of the story almost lyrical. I had a hard time putting the book down. I did find that throughout the book I wasn't as connected to the characters as I was to the story, its allegory and the style. The author's website says, the Tales of Goldstone Wood are a series of fantasy adventure novels told in the classic Fairy Tale style" which I think she did very well. I will definitely read more from this author.
This is a beautifully written story. I especially enjoyed the allegory of Aethelbald, representing Christ’s love for us, even after we reject him and fall to our lowest points in life. I thought the author did a wonderful job showing how Una’s shallow choices led her down a tragic road. I loved the dragon imagery and thought the author created a nice balance with enough suspense to keep moving the story forward. If you enjoy the fantasy genre but are looking for something with a meaningful message, this book is perfect! It’s so great to see Christian writers taking back this genre and using it to send powerful messages to our youth!
It was a good book. I imagine geared toward teen girls. A little frustrating because sometimes you knew what the main character was thinking and her motivations and other times you only knew her actions. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it and had a hard time putting it down.
Loved the story, the symbolism is great. We all have a dragon inside of us, it is just a matter of who we allow to rule our hearts. Love the characters.
I have discovered a new favorite author. The next C.S. Lewis.
Every once in a while, there comes a story that has such simplistic beauty that it takes your breath away. Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Heartless is one such story. It's like a fairy tale in many ways, but with a deeper underlying meaning to the story that just resounds with such poignancy that it cannot be overlooked or ignored. The setting is fantasy, but the themes are true to life. Love, loss and betrayal are too universal to not connect in various ways with readers.Princess Una is a heroine that one can enjoy, not a superwoman, but a realistic one with her own strengths and weaknesses. This means that at times she came across as what she was, a sixteen year old spoiled and shallow girl. But, her redeeming characteristics also shone through, her love for her family, her determination, and in the end, her kindness pulled her into your heart.The other characters, even the evil ones, are explored in such a way that one cannot help but to want to know more about them, and feel that the wonderful story we have is just the beginning.The Princess, having given her heart away to someone who does not return her love, becomes heartless and embittered, and the way this theme is explored is so unique and intriguing that the book and characters stayed in my mind for days after having finished it.Goldstone and it's people, is a place I look forward to revisiting as the cover promises this is the first of the series.The only complaint I have about the book is the way the characters cut off giving information to the reader. Even though most of the time, the message was hinted at or became clear later in the text, it was most frustrating to feel as though you never quite knew exactly what they had been referring to. This was especially true when the subject of dragons breeding surfaced, and also the question of WHY didn't anyone go over the old bridge, and what would happen if they did? This last question was not answered, and so we are left hoping for a sequel to explain the mystery to us.This is a book that will be cherished in many a library.
This book has a lot of potential, but for me it fell flat in many ways. The concept of the mysterious wood, the prince from a far-away and magical land, the evil dragon, etc. is all very interesting and full of great ways to develop a plot. Unfortunately, most of the plot in this book focused on a young, mostly whiny princess who wanted nothing more than to have scores of suitors coming to her house to appreciate her and propose to her. Ugh. The relationship between the two romantic leads is under-developed; by the end I was rooting for him to dump her b/c I can't see what he would want with her in the first place. The hero rocks, the heroine is flat. I felt like their romance was odd, too. She swore she'd hate him from the start and never really showed any major turnaround but ended up loving him in the end. What? Overall, this book had some great and original ideas but I feel like it left most of them hanging without proper character and plot development. This is a series, I believe; I have no interest in reading the next installment.
After reading the rather cliched back cover copy, I approached this book with skepticism... I hoped it wouldn't be that bad, but I kept putting off reading it because I didn't want to start yet another mediocre fantasy and have to write a lukewarm review on another ER book.Honestly, it didn't start well... it was a bit slow, the writing style was in that vague, flow-y fantasy vein that tends to annoy me to no end (why can't the author just SPEAK PLAINLY?!), and the plot seemed rather generic.So, imagine my surprise when, in the second half of the book, I became extremely invested in the characters, the plot, and the world that Stengl created. In fact, I read the entire book in one sitting... I think I got up once to refill my tea mug. The book has its weaknesses: the heroine is a bit underdeveloped, and the love story feels somewhat contrived. But it also has its strengths: the way dragons are born was unexpected and unique, and the hero (and his rival) are rather interesting on their own terms. One thing to note is, I spent the first two thirds of the book waiting for the 'Christian' part of the book to happen... it's published as a CBA book, which usually means some form of evangelism will appear at least for a few pages (even in the rare CBA fantasy novels), and imagine my delight when I realized that... it wasn't coming. There wasn't going to be a forced 'Christianese' aspect to the world, rather, the book simply reflected a Christian worldview and let the story stand on its own as a well written, interesting fantasy novel.I will say that I don't think the book will be for everyone. I'm also not entirely sure how this is going to develop as a series, which is clearly the author's intent -- I think it does well as a stand-alone.
This was a very enjoyable first book. Stengl creates a new world with new rules and characters, but does a wonderful job of not getting caught up in the details of describing every new race that comes along, rather she gives you enough details in passing comments and assumes you'll catch on.The ending was a bit abrupt and the story was a bit predictable, but it was fresh and new all the same. I found this to be quite good and will definitely look forward to more books by this author.