This will be a review of the first six books of Stengl’s series: Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, Dragonwitch, and Shadow Hand.
Recommended for whom?
Third or fourth grade students and older is an ideal age for this series. They are not particularly difficult to read, but with the bit of violence and the overall darkness in these books, I would be hesitant to recommend them to anyone under the age of 8 or 9.
- Average family rating: 4.5/5
- My favorite book of the series: I have only finished the first six in the series, but my favorite thus far is probably Shadow Hand, #6. Moonblood, #3, was also pretty awesome and a close second.
- My favorite character: Oh, this was difficult! I think I will have to choose two: Sir Eanrin the Bard and Prince Felix of Parumvir.
Recently I was quite pleased to discover that someone had written a rather long series of allegorical fantasy novels, called the Tales of Goldstone Wood. It had been a long time since I had found a good allegory – and I could not justify reading one of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia novels yet another time. The series did not disappoint. So, on to the synopsis! (By the way, the first three books actually tell the same story, but from different points-of-view.)
In the land of Parumvir, Princess Una must soon marry. Her problem is that her first suitor, Prince Aethelbald of the fabled land of Farthestshore, is not exactly the most dashing prince. Una soon gives her heart away to a more charming suitor, and ignores Aethelbald’s offer and his warnings of a rumored dragon in a nearby country. When the Dragon King himself comes to Parumvir, Una is horrified to learn that she is his main target.
What is Good
First of all, these books have amazing, really likable characters (even if some of their names, Foxbrush and Una, for example, are quite unfortunate choices). These characters make mistakes (and all but one character, the Christ-figure, does ) yet I still do care about them. One character in particular, Lionheart, was a wonderful character. He was prideful and arrogant, but his desire to do the right thing makes him much like a real person.
Next, this series is a really great allegory. The way that it represents our world can be confusing at time, but it actually made me think of God in ways that I had not before.
Lastly, Stengl always has wonderful messages in her books, and fits them perfectly into the stories. For example, Heartless demonstrates what love truly is in a beautiful picture of Christ giving himself for the one He loves, even when they rejected Him.
The first issue that I had with this series was the swearing, if it can be called that. Most characters will swear by saying “Dragon’s teeth!” or something of that ilk, and generally this would be acceptable to me; except that since this is an allegory, and dragons are supposed to represent the devil and his demons, this means that the characters are swearing by the devil.
The last (more major) problem that I had with these books that would make me hesitate to recommend them to everyone is the general feeling of darkness in these books. I have a feeling that my younger siblings who are younger than 8 and most other children of that age range would be terrified of some things in these books. The most powerful dragon, for example, called Death-in-Life, is always written in a terrifying way so that he gives a feeling of darkness and evil.
I was so excited when I finished reading my first book of this series (I say my first because I read the sixth one before reading the others; that was not the best idea!). At last I had found another fantasy to read! and the author was still writing more of the series! Even though I was a little thrown off by the silly-sounding names (I am still getting over the fact that I actually cared about a character named Foxbrush), I came around to really enjoying this series. I think you will too, as long as you are old enough to not be frightened by the sense of darkness in a good portion of these books.