I’ve decided to start doing reviews on this blog. I’ve been thinking about starting this up for a while, but I haven’t had nearly as much time to read as I would like. Now that I have significantly more free time, however, my literary life has been resuscitated. I also have a lot more time to write meaningful reviews. So, here goes!
I thought we’d start with a genre near and dear to my heart: Christian fantasy!
Series: Tales of Goldstone Wood
Author: Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Genre: Christian Fantasy/YA Fantasy
Rating: 4/5 stars
Overview: I first found this book several years ago in the Kindle store when randomly browsing for Christian fantasy books. I was instantly drawn in by the cover, but I’m a miser, and if a book is more than $2.99, it takes some real convincing for me to buy it. So I plopped it onto my to-read list and hoped for an opportunity to read it at some point. And when I found it at my local library, I knew that opportunity had finally come. I went into this book with slight trepidation. Christian fantasy is pretty hit-or-miss, and stunning cover or not, the story had every opportunity to be either fantastic or unbearably cheesy. I am pleased to say that it was the former.
Characters: Let’s start with Una, the heroine of our tale. She was quite human from the beginning, complete with likable traits and… less likable ones. She has a good heart, but she’s also just a little bit of a brat sometimes. That made me like her all the more. She felt like a real person, not just a new ne tacked onto the allegory-protagonist stock character. Felix was my favorite character. He was funny, a little reckless, and just enough out of the loop to make him a true reader’s-perspective character. I hope he shows up again in later stories. The Dragon was your typical allegory villain: cunning, ruthless, and all-around pure evil. His method of expressing that evil was quite intriguing, however, and he stood out amongst dragon villains and villains in general. And then Aethelbald. Poor dear, with that dreadful name… He really didn’t deserve that. He was a pretty decent depiction of a Christ-like character—obviously a good person, but not in a stuffy way. I liked him. Oh, and we can’t forget Monster. A cool cat if ever there was one
Content: Being a Christian novel, I wasn’t really worried about content. There was some romance—the story revolves around a bunch of men courting Una. Everything is kept innocent and pure, though, coming with a poignant lesson about guarding your heart. There are a few kisses, totally undetailed. (“He kissed her.” The End.) There are some battles in the story, and those come with a few descriptions like, “His sword was red with blood.” Nothing graphic, though. The dragons are a bit frightening with their fire and the dragon’s bloody throne and whatnot, but again, nothing graphic. This is fantasy, so there are some magical elements to the story. There’s a clear distinction between the Dragon’s magic and Aethelbald’s magic, however, and there are no spells or anything like that. There is a brief encounter with a fortune teller, but it’s portrayed as evil and not something to be messed with.
Writing: I was impressed with the writing! The story caught and held my attention, and even though it lagged in a few places near the beginning, I was always eager to keep reading. It wasn’t really a “pull you in and keep you spellbound” story, but it made for a nice temporary escape from reality. In terms of allegory, this was a unique approach to that subgenre. I’ve never read an allegory quite like this one—and that’s a compliment!
Summary: I really enjoyed this book. It was a refreshing change from secular YA, focusing on such God-honoring themes as true love and guarding your heart. I recommend it to 14 and up fans of Lewis and Tolkien.