Book Review: Golden Daughter by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
BEYOND THE REALM OF DREAMS IS A WORLD SHE NEVER IMAGINED.
Masayi Sairu was raised to be dainty, delicate, demure . . . and deadly. She is one of the emperor’s Golden Daughters, as much a legend as she is a commodity. One day, Sairu will be contracted in marriage to a patron, whom she will secretly guard for the rest of her life.
But when she learns that a sacred Dream Walker of the temple seeks the protection of a Golden Daughter, Sairu forgoes marriage in favor of this role. Her skills are stretched to the limit, for assassins hunt in the shadows, and phantoms haunt in dreams. With only a mysterious Faerie cat and a handsome slave possessed of his own strange abilities to help her, can Sairu shield her new mistress from evils she can neither see nor touch?
For the Dragon is building an army of fire. And soon the heavens will burn.
Doesn’t the back cover just sound awesome? The book is awesome, too.
Golden Daughter was, without a doubt, one of the best books I have read this year. I loved the characters, the setting—I marveled at the way the author wrote certain parts of it. I would recommend it to anyone who reads Young Adult Christian Fantasy.
Oh, boy. Don’t get me started on the characters (no, sorry. It’s too late; you already did). As always, Anne Elisabeth Stengl was a master at creating lovable, relatable characters. And also characters you would very much like to hit over the head a few times. With a log.
Sairu was epic. Her thoughts, her feelings, her complete ability to be a strong character and still be a girl all made her one of my favorite heroines ever. I adored the way she reacted to a certain event (though the event and the reaction were far from awesome) and the way she interacted with the other characters. I especially loved her smile.
The other characters were also amazing. One side character in particular made it to my “Favorite Character” list, and of course the recurring characters were awesome as usual. The two heroes in the book didn’t catch my attention quite as much as Sairu did, though I still eagerly followed along in his journey.
To avoid spoilers, I should move on.
Have I mentioned that Anne Elisabeth Stengl is a genius? This book was full of characters. They wove a complex and gripping story—but as the story went on, we slowly saw these characters fading away into the background (Or… the morgue. *cringes*) as the main thrust of the story came forward and the camera focus intensified on a few main characters.
I don’t think I can express with words the amazingness* of the plot. The intensity slowly rose and my interest remained captured, beyond hope of rescue. It got to the point where I found myself gasping, crouched on the floor and with the Kindle clasped in my faintly shaking hands. I never even suspected half of the plot twists until I turned to the very scene and I realized, “Oh, no,” as the events were revealed as about to occur. The plot, putting it simply, was amazing.
After writing this series for years, Anne Elisabeth knows her world, something you could tell while reading the book. Golden Daughter was set primarily in a place we’ve only briefly stayed in during the Tales of Goldstone Wood, but the land was still vividly there, every bit as real as any other world of any book. The history ran deep. The culture was defined, and the Asian setting was one that I, a particular lover of Asia (China, more specifically) was incredibly pleased with.
Something made the world come alive. Perhaps it was the fact that the majority of the people worshiped pagan deities, and the broken world we could see in the story. Whatever it was, the land, full of grit and filth, would have fit right in here on Earth. It felt so real you could almost smell the rotting fish and the salty air on the docks, hear the noises of the people, taste the smell of the dirt upon your tongue. It felt so real, I suppose, because of how desperately the people needed a Savior. Undoubtedly I would die a terrible death if I were to even briefly set foot in it—but nevertheless, I would have loved to go there and help all the hurting, broken people there.
The author of these stories writes in omniscient narrative, which in some of the other books took some getting used to—even in this one, it may seem a little odd to some readers, though it didn’t to me. In this book I could really see the beauty of the writing style. In this story it stepped so solidly in and out of points-of-view at times so perfect that you could almost feel the heartbeat of each individual character while at the same time knowing the whole story.
At points, the writing was beautiful. At other points, it was painfully honest. At other points in the story, it just was. The writing was used in the best way possible to tell this particular story. That, I believe, is the purpose of writing styles in books.
This story was set in a dark, damaged world. We see death and destruction. We see pain and filth. The body count for this novel seemed higher than in other Tales of Goldstone Wood books, but never to the point where it was pointless as it is in the novels of some authors. All the deaths served a purpose, however tragic each and every one (and one in particular) were. There were a few mentions of the cultures expectations in certain circumstances, but all of it was handled well.
I would not read this book aloud to my little sisters. The characters are too real, the story too painfully dirty, the monsters too human and yet monstrous. Yet I do expect to read it myself again and again. I loved the book, the journey of the characters, the answers we got to a few questions from the rest of the series while still being its own story, and the questions it opened up.
So read it. If you do, tell me what you think. I suspect that you’ll love it.
*”Amazingness” is a word. I just created it.