Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Book Review: Dragonwitch

Buy it here
When fantasy-author Anne Elisabeth Stengl asked for a group of people to read advance-copies of her book, Dragonwitch, I signed up. I was a little leery of what this book might be, as dragons are frightful enough without being witches. But as soon as I read the prologue of the fifth book in The Tales of Goldstone Wood series, I knew I was in for something quite different than I'd pictured:
    Generations had passed in the mortal world above as the brothers battled and then lay still. At last Etanun roused himself and turned to Akilun. "Brother, I have sinned," he began, but the words vanished from his lips.
     Akilun was dead.
Brother-plots have always been a favorite of mine, so knowing that Dragonwitch started with a few pages that almost made me cry definitely set the tone for the rest of the novel.

The description from the back of the book:
     Submissive to her father's will, Lady Leta of Aiven travels far to meet a prospective husband she neither knows nor loves - Lord Alistair, future king of the North Country.
     But within the walls of his castle, all is not right. Vicious night terrors plague Lord Alistair. Whispers rise from the family crypt. The reclusive castle Chronicler, Leta's tutor and friend, possesses a secret so dangerous it could cost his life and topple the entire nation.
     And far away in a hidden kingdom, a flame burns atop the Citadel of the Living fire. Acolytes and priestesses serve their goddess to the limits of their lives and deaths. No one is safe while the Dragonwitch searches for the sword that slew her twice...and for the hero who can wield it.
It is a rare book that I actually like more than I hoped, for too often I have a higher expectation of a book than it actually merits. But with Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Dragonwitch, I found wrenching, beautiful allegories thrown in amongst the characters in an effortless way, and though I had never read a Goldstone Wood tale before, I hope to have the chance to visit the Wood Between the Worlds again soon.

What I liked about Dragonwitch:

Etanun's story, and the portrayal of Hri Sora, the Dragonwitch herself. I don't think there is a finer portrayal of goodness-gone-sour and though I despised the Hri Sora, my heart broke for her. I also have a fondness for The Chronicler, and Mouse. Funny, because they don't end up together, but they were my two favorites. And of course Eanrin, the Cat-Man; how can you not love him? Does anyone else picture him as played by Kenneth Branagh? :D
I also loved the way the author wove Truth all through the pages; like I said: sometimes I felt like I was reading a beautiful allegory which is a mark of fine writing, in my opinion.

What I didn't like about Dragonwitch:

At the beginning I didn't know Alistair well enough to care about his night-terrors, so I was more impatient than sympathetic when he would wander about in a clammy daze; however, afterward I grew to love Alistair, so I don't think the sudden introduction of his dream-problem had an adverse effect in the end.
Also, for the first third of the book I felt confused over which world was which, who was who, and had difficulty remembering names (i.e. to the new reader, "Etanun" and "Eanrin" are easily confused). But I believe this has far more to do with the fact that I'm jumping in on the series with Book 5 and would not have that confusion had I started where one is supposed to start.

Final words:

Read Dragonwitch. Read it twice. And then pass it on to your friends so they can read it. While not quite a challenging read for an adult in terms of dialog and theme, it is a beautiful book to pass a week of rainy evenings with, and you will find therein much to love, admire, and ponder. I give Dragonwitch 4 out of 5 stars. (I rarely {if ever?} give any book 5 stars if that gives you an idea of how good I think it is.)


   "The little man swallowed, his jaw clenching. 'This...this is the Haven of the Lumil Eliasul. The Haven of the Prince of the Farthest Shore. Built by the brothers Ashiun.'
    'Well done, Chronicler,' said Eanrin. 'You've done your research.'
    'I don't believe in this place.'
    'I don't see what your lack of belief has to do with anything.'
    'And you're Bard Eanrin.'
    'That I am.'
    'I don't believe in you either.'"

    "'Love is a terrible thing,' Mouse whispered.
     'Only love gone astray,' said the prisoner. 'the time has come you should be frightened. If fear will awaken you, be afraid! and then be courageous in your fear and act.'"


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Jack said...

I think I have the first book of this series on my Kindle and have been wanting to get to it. They sound good and exciting and I hope to read the whole series someday.

Hannah said...

What a beautiful review! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Wasn't the character of Etanun so inspiring? The legend of the Brothers Ashiun had been referenced throughout the series, and I was so glad to finally hear it in full.

Did you end up crying anywhere in the book? I broke down in tears three times at the climax and at the end the end.

Ever flowed the Final Water...