Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Review: Golden Daughter by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

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Title: Golden Daughter

Author: Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Series: Tales of Goldstone Wood #7

Genre: Fantasy

Audience: Young Adult

**5 stars**

Golden Daughter by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. Alright, give me a moment to come up with the appropriate word to describe it … Stunning? Enthralling? Amazing? Powerful? Emotional? Complex? Utterly epic? Okay, so one word won’t suffice. It’s a fictional masterpiece. Book seven of the TALES OF GOLDSTONE WOOD, Golden Daughter has to be one of the most brilliant yet of the series. The things that happen. The answers uncovered. The stories told. I would sit momentarily speechless at one point, and laughing with glee in the next.

All her life, Princess Sairu—who can read secrets by looking into one’s eyes—has been trained to be fiercely protective, wholly devoted, and yet never love. She’s a Golden Daughter. A legend. A secret. And is often mistaken for a little handmaiden, especially when her path merges with a Dream Walker’s.
     Jovann and Sunan are half-brothers. They are pitted against each other by circumstances not of their own making, but Jovann seeks to remedy that. However, Sunan has hatred buried too deep to be merely brushed aside. Kidnappings, Masks, imps, and a certain Lady Hariawan litter their paths and make everything so much more complicated.
     Then we have a smug, fluffy orange cat; a passel of hedge-pigs (a.k.a lion dogs); some self-important priests; Hymlume and her beautiful children; mysterious Dream Walkers; a dark Dragon; and of course, the ever-present songbird.

I’m staring at this half-written review and wracking my brain for what next to write. Golden Daughter is almost too big for words. Like really, TALES OF GOLDSTONE WOOD has to be the most intricate, complex series I’ve ever read. Don’t let that scare you away from reading Golden Daughter and its like though. Its complexity only makes it better, and I don’t believe I’ve ever been really confused. Things usually come together quite nicely—if not in the actual book, than in the sequel, or a few books after that. It’s an epic series truly; just beware that writing a long, eloquent review for it might be a little bit of a challenge! *smiles*

So it’s a fantasy. With a powerful Christian allegory woven firmly into its fibers. It has a fairytale twist with its enchanted other worlds and fae folk. Apparently you can read Golden Daughter on its own, but I would definitely recommend reading the other books of the series first. –In order. It makes every little moment ever so much more meaningful. In fact, I delighted in the similarities to Heartless (book one) that I found in Golden Daughter. It’s probably because, chronologically, Golden Daughter comes before Heartless. I loved how Sir Eanrin the cat was called “monster” again in this tale, just as he was in Heartless! Just brings back fond memories, ^_^

Golden Daughter (as the other tales) can be a little creepy. A bit gory. It was also a little darker, like Shadow Hand, but not quite to the degree book six was. I found a lot of sweet, silly, touching, and hilarious moments in between. A lot of them included Eanrin (of course). Or the songbird, Lumil Eliasul. –Those particular moments chased away the darkness and brought a deep profoundness to Golden Daughter that often left me in tears. *clears throat* Anyway, because of some frightening/slightly gory content, I would strongly caution parents: read these books before you let your younger children (perhaps twelve and under) read them, and then judge for yourself if your child can handle it. Though I’m not sure, I think my twelve-year-old sister would be okay with the more mature content, and would love the books overall!

The allegory. So many profound, heartfelt, real-like allegories. (And there’s even a subtle retelling of a Biblical story … do keep on the lookout!) Golden Daughter made me realize anew how very deep Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s books are. These are no fluffy tales of romance and humor. Though yes, it does contain those elements. But rather, they are a part of a much bigger tale. A tale of the all-surpassing love of a God for His people. A tale of the power of a Creator and His hand in all the events that come to pass. A tale of darkness getting swallowed up in a much-greater Light. And of imperfect, sometimes lost, but unique characters caught up in that tale. I just have to sit in awe of the beauty of the allegories Anne Elisabeth weaves together. May she ever continue to follow God’s leading and let Him speak through her novels. I’m left deeply touched.

We meet fascinating new characters, Sairu and Jovann, to name our main characters; and reconnect with beloved old ones. Sir Eanrin for one. Oh, the smug, irresistible cat! I just love him, *happily smiles* We uncover some dark secrets about the evil Dragon. And we learn anew the power of the songbird; his silver trill of: Won’t you return to me? always brings hope in even the darkest of moments.

A horrible-yet-amazing story is finally told. A story we’ve perhaps been waiting to hear since the very first book, Heartless. It includes encounters with Hymlume, the Gold Gong, and the wretched Dragon. Very emotional and deep story. And Sairu, Jovann, Sunan, Lady Hariawan, and Sir Eanrin all have a place in the unfolding of the tale.

I love how real Golden Daughter is. The bad is not brushed over; it’s displayed along with the good. The characters are flawed, and they have raw, real feelings and emotions. They’re not the perfect heroes and heroines—they often make mistakes. Oftentimes they don’t even know how to respond to their Lord. It’s messy, but it’s beautiful. –When Lumil Eliasul is there to hold their hands. Just like real life, hey?

So yeah … at some point … after Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, Dragonwitch, Goddess Tithe (novella), and Shadow Hand, if you haven’t read those … do pick up Golden Daughter and let your heart be warmed, your mind be thrilled, and your soul be touched.

For myself, I’m waiting (im)patiently for book eight. Or perhaps another novella, Draven’s Light; whichever comes first! *smiles*

I received a free copy of Golden Daughter in exchange for my honest review.


  1. i just love fan-girl reviews! :D

    1. Haha, yep! I still haven't really read your review yet. Just skimmed it while I was on goodreads. I'll have to stop by your blog and read it!
      Yay for fan-girl reviews! :)

  2. Wow this was a BEAUTIFUL review. I'm quite knocked over. Well-done, Shantelle! If Golden Daughter is woven as beautifully as your review for it, it must be a story indeed! I hope to read it someday... once I get through the rest of the series. ;) *stares longingly at Veiled Rose waiting halfway down my to-read stack* Thanks for this lovely review! ^_^

    1. Aw thanks, Deborah! I tried to give Golden Daughter the credit it deserves! :) It really was quite the amazing book.
      Oh, I know how that is! "I really, really want to read this book, but first I have to read this and this and this book..." Yep, too many books, hey? ;) Well, I hope you get to it soon!! :) :)
      Your welcome!!

  3. I'm going to begin reading this series as soon as I can get "Heartless" from the library. I've had it on hold for quite some time and have been eagerly awaiting for it to come in. ~L'Amour Lover

    1. Awesome!! I really hope you enjoy Heartless! (And the rest of the books!) Tales of Goldstone Wood is quite unlike any series I've read, but very worth it!! :)