Book Review [Heartless]

Tales of Goldstone Wood (#1)
Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Publisher: Bethany House
Genre:  YA
Christian Allegory

The Dragon King Seeks His Princess—
Who Dares to Stop Him?

Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon marry. She dreams of a charming prince, but when her first suitor arrives, he's not what she'd hoped. Prince Aethelbald of mysterious Farthestshore has travelled a great distance to prove his love--and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be on the hunt and blazing a path of terror. 

Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald's offer--and ignores his cautions with dire consequences. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in his sights. Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.

Warning:  Possible spoilers!

I read this back in September. . . 'Bout time I reviewed it, eh? =]

[The Basics]
Una, Princess of Parumvir, has just come of age, and dreams of the time when her Prince Charming shall arrive.  He does, but is not quite the kind of prince she was expecting.  Aethelbald is his name, and he hails from the land of Farthestshore, a realm of mystery and magic.  Rather plain and average in looks, Aethelbald does his best to prove his love to the obstinate and spoiled princess, but she has already unwisely given her heart to another, even after his earnest warnings.

I found myself wishing desperately to slap some sense into this girl.  Aethelbald goes above and beyond to show her his love and faithfulness, and what does she do? publicly refuses him, insults him more than once, and makes it clear he is not her choice.  Still, Aethelbald pursues her.  Through him, we see the love of Christ for His Church.  

Sadly, I saw myself in Una.  I know what I want, and all to often, I do whatever is in my power to get it.  I have my life planned out perfectly and I don't want some plain wanna-be prince stealing my dreams.  

The princess is a beautifully flawed character who learns the hard way what happens when one surrenders all to sin.  In short, it unleashes the dragon inside.  The one we keep hidden.  Sooner or later, it will show itself, whether you wish it to or not.  That's where our Prince comes in to save the day.

[Spiritual Content]
This novel is a fantastic allegory (symbolic story) of Christ's love and forgiveness, what lengths He goes through to prove that love, the consequences of unfaithfulness, and the true form of our sin.  As mentioned above, Prince Aethelbald of Farthestshore represents Jesus Christ and his all-out pursuit of His bride, in this case, Una.  Una represents the Church.  Through her we see how far we have fallen and how loyal we are to our own plans for our lives.  But He loves us anyway and goes to great lengths to prove it to us.  

The Dragon King, you may have guessed, is symbolic of our Enemy, Satan.  His children, "converted" dragons act as his demons, wreaking havoc and chaos in the world.

Among the many suitors of the princess is the Dragon King himself, though he wants more than just her hand and will also go to great lengths to secure her as his own.  His wish is to make her a daughter, just as many others have become his children.  But it is her choice alone.  In seeking her, the Dragon destroys everything in his path.  Rumors abound, and are true (spoiler!), that he has overtaken a whole kingdom.  People are killed, homes burn to the ground, and toxic smoke pollutes the air, eventually poisoning those who breathe it.  To make matters worse, he brings the destruction to her doorstep.  The king, Una's father, is poisoned by fumes and doubted to survive.  Her younger brother, Felix, suffers as well and is thought dead.  The royal family is betrayed by trusted knights.  

One thing I didn't like:  ALL dragons are evil.  Not one good among them.  But it fits in this story.  And Satan is often called the Great Dragon.  

[Love-y Content]
As previously mentioned, Aethelbald does all that he can to prove his faithfulness to Una.  Clearly, his love is displayed in his polite words, calm personality, and genuine concern for her well-being.  I only recall one kiss. . . I think. 

One pompous suitor only desires Una's hand for the apparent wealth of her kingdom, as does another, unexpected, wealthy man.  

Another young man, whom we discover more of in the following books, expresses his love to her, though he believes it quite hopeless.  (I won't say more, you'll just have to read it to find out.)

Goldstone Wood is regarded as dangerous.  None are allowed to enter, as a caution, for through the Wood live the people of Faerie (among other creatures like goblins, giants, and dwarves).  They are referred to as folk of the Far World.  Magic is quite familiar among them.  Faerie items are sold in a Twelve-Year Market that arrives in Una's world (the Near World) every 200 years.

All in all, I loved this book!  Anne's writing style is wonderful and uniquely descriptive.  I didn't want to put the book down.  And this is just the first of the series!  The story is a refreshing view that shines a new light on our temperament as Christians--how we are to stand strong in the midst of the dragon-smoke and not conform to the hardened scales of the monster inside.


Recommended ages:  13+

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  1. Oh, I love this book Sarah!
    Your review was perfect.
    How many have you read in this series?

  2. Hi, Morgan! Thanks ^__^
    I have only read the first two, but I just bought the third (Moonblood) and will read it next!

  3. I know I'm super late on commenting (I've gotten so behind on all my favorite blogs!) but I just had to comment on this one because this is one of my favorite books! It's so beautifully written! Love this story! And Veiled Rose as well. It's awesome! Sadly, I haven't gotten the others yet, but I really, really want them.

  4. Thanks for commenting, Lauri! I know exactly what you mean about falling behind, but don't worry about it. =] Moonblood is next on my list!!


To each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass, and a book of rules,
And each must make, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.