Red Lettering

Stories will not be written easily. A story without a heart is dead, and the only place it will get a heart is from the author.

Archive for the tag “Draven’s Light”

Book Review: Draven’s Light, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

In the Darkness of the Pit The Light Shines Brightest

Drums summon the chieftain’s powerful son to slay a man in cold blood and thereby earn his place among the warriors. But instead of glory, he earns the name Draven, “Coward.” When the men of his tribe march off to war, Draven remains behind with the women and his shame. Only fearless but crippled Ita values her brother’s honor.

The warriors return from battle victorious yet trailing a curse in their wake. One by one the strong and the weak of the tribe fall prey to an illness of supernatural power. The secret source of this evil can be found and destroyed by only the bravest heart.

But when the curse attacks the one Draven loves most, can this coward find the courage he needs to face the darkness?

Draven's Light Cover

One could say that Draven’s Light, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, is a small book. And perhaps it is: clocking out at 190 pages, it certainly isn’t large, as far as page-count goes. You could probably fit it in your purse or bag easily, and not feel the extra weight. It’s only around 50k words; not very large by author standards.

And yet the effects this book will have are bigger than the book itself. The weight it carries is heavier; you will remember it for a longer time than it took you to read it.

You see, dear reader, this book may be small in size, but in reality, it is as big as The Lord of the Rings, as emotionally stirring as A Tale of Two Cities. 

This story takes place in two sections and in two separate times: in the first, we see a little girl who carries water up to the two Brothers who labor on their Great House near her village. In the second, we follow the story that is told to the girl; the story of Draven, the Coward—or is he Draven, the Hero?

The characters within will call to you, beckoning to your heart. GahoDraven, was admirable, brave, loyal, and very much alive. Ita was little, but fierce, a little broken, but made stronger in spirit and in pride for it. Though perhaps, just perhaps, her desire to be strong isn’t all that is within her; perhaps there is much more than pride. At times, Ita was the person I related to the most in the novel. Callix, though I liked him at first, didn’t really grow on me as much as I thought he would. 

In the girl’s side of the story, we find the girl, her grandmother, and the Brothers. I loved seeing Etanun and Akilun during a normal time in their lives—not fighting dragons, not saving the day… but being heroes all the more for it. The girl was, well, us. She was all of us fan-girls, deciding what must come next in the story. She thought about the story all day when she couldn’t hear the next part, and then was sure of how it must go next. The girl definitely ranked up there in my top favorite characters from the book.

Now, though I dislike to mention it, I must speak of the only part of the book I disliked: the girl’s mother. The lady is always busy, always doing something, and never seems to have time for any of her children. To quote from the book:

“She was always in a hurry about something. Twelve children have a way of keeping a woman on her feet.”

A little bit of history for those of you who are unaware… My family has eleven children. While that’s not quite as much as the girl’s family, I can’t imagine that one child makes that much of a difference. My mother is quite possibly one of the calmest people I’ve ever met, always with time to talk or help her children with something; nothing like the lady in the book. While, of course, there are different types of people, I feel as though the portrayal of a woman with so many children is… well, less favorable than it could be. While this doesn’t thrill me, by the time I got to the end of the novel, it didn’t matter as much, and I did love the book; out of 190 pages, I had only this one complaint. Draven's Light Banner

Objectionable Content: The setting was dark, it’s true; Draven’s tribe is a twisted group of people. Yet— and this is one of the reasons Anne Elisabeth Stengl is one of my favorite authors—she never showed anything, never even stated would have gone on behind the scenes had events transpired differently. There is some violence, yes, but nothing described in detail. The Tales of Goldstone Wood are intended to build up, and as such, the author writes them in a clean and encouraging ways.

Technicalities: There was nary a typo or awkwardly phrased sentence that I noticed. The plot and pacing was well done, the novella balanced between the separate time periods. It didn’t seem to drag in any place (though my sister Caiti tends to notice the pacing and technical things better than I), and though I guessed the reveal at the end before-hand, I loved it all the more for it.

I fear this is the least in-depth book review I’ve ever written. However, I’m happy because now I know you’ll be done reading the book review faster, and you can go more quickly to read the book.

Purchase Links: Amazon –  Barnes&Noble – Add to Your Goodreads Account!

About the Author

ANNE ELISABETH STENGL makes her home in North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. Her novels have been nominated for and won various literary awards, including the Christy Award and the Clive Staples Award.

To learn more about Anne Elisabeth Stengl and her books visit:

(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.)

Cover Reveal: Draven’s Light, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Alas, this post is going up later than I had planned for it to—I forgot to schedule it yesterday—and so most of you have probably already seen the beautiful cover of Draven’s Light. Even if you have, though, I get to have it and the teaser up on my blog, and that makes me happy.

In the Darkness of the Pit 

The Light Shines Brightest

Drums summon the chieftain’s powerful son to slay a man in cold blood and thereby earn his place among the warriors. But instead of glory, he earns the name Draven, “Coward.” When the men of his tribe march off to war, Draven remains behind with the women and his shame. Only fearless but crippled Ita values her brother’s honor.

The warriors return from battle victorious yet trailing a curse in their wake. One by one the strong and the weak of the tribe fall prey to an illness of supernatural power. The secret source of this evil can be found and destroyed by only the bravest heart.

But when the curse attacks the one Draven loves most, can this coward find the courage he needs to face the darkness?

Coming May 25, 2015

 Draven's Light Cover


Isn’t it beautiful? Click on it. Zoom in. Zoom in again. The details are lovely, down to the wax dripping onto his gloved hand, or the texture in the vines. He looks almost breathless, but very determined.

Excerpt from


By Anne Elisabeth Stengl


He heard the drums in his dreams, distant but drawing ever nearer. He had heard them before and wondered if the time of his manhood had come. But with the approach of dawn, the drums always faded away and he woke to the world still a child. Still a boy.

But this night, the distant drums were louder, stronger. Somehow he knew they were not concocted of his sleeping fancy. No, even as he slept he knew these were real drums, and he recognized the beat: The beat of death. The beat of blood.

The beat of a man’s heart.

He woke with a start, his leg throbbing where it had just been kicked. It was not the sort of awakening he had longed for these last two years and more. He glared from his bed up into the face of his sister, who stood above him, balancing her weight on a stout forked branch tucked under her left shoulder.

“Ita,” the boy growled, “what are you doing here? Go back to the women’s hut!”

His sister made a face at him, but he saw, even by the moonlight streaming through cracks in the thatch above, that her eyes were very round and solemn. Only then did he notice that the drumbeats of his dream were indeed still booming deep in the woods beyond the village fires. He sat up then, his heart thudding its own thunderous pace.

“A prisoner,” Ita said, shifting her branch so that she might turn toward the door. “The drums speak of a prisoner. They’re bringing him even now.” She flashed a smile down at him, though it was so tense with anxiety it could hardly be counted a smile at all. “Gaho, your name!”

The boy was up and out of his bed in a moment, reaching for a tunic and belt. His sister hobbled back along the wall but did not leave, though he wished she would. He wished she would allow him these few moments before the drums arrived in the village. The drums that beat of one man’s death . . . and one man’s birth.

His name was Gaho. But by the coming of dawn, if the drums’ promise was true, he would be born again in blood and bear a new name.

Hands shaking with what he desperately hoped wasn’t fear, he tightened his belt and searched the room for his sickle blade. He saw the bone handle, white in the moonlight, protruding from beneath his bed pile, and swiftly took it up. The bronze gleamed dully, like the carnivorous tooth of an ancient beast.

A shudder ran through his sister’s body. Gaho, sensing her distress, turned to her. She grasped her supporting branch hard, and the smile was gone from her face. “Gaho,” she said, “will you do it?”

“I will,” said Gaho, his voice strong with mounting excitement.

But Ita reached out to him suddenly, catching his weapon hand just above the wrist. “I will lose you,” she said. “My brother . . . I will lose you!”

“You will not. You will lose only Gaho,” said the boy, shaking her off, gently, for she was not strong. Without another word, he ducked through the door of his small hut—one he had built for himself but a year before in anticipation of his coming manhood—and stood in the darkness of Rannul Village, eyes instinctively turning to the few campfires burning. The drums were very near now, and he could see the shadows of waking villagers moving about the fires, building up the flames in preparation for what must surely follow. He felt eyes he could not see turning to his hut, turning to him. He felt the question each pair of eyes asked in silent curiosity: Will it be tonight?

Tonight or no night.

Grasping the hilt of his weapon with both hands, Gaho strode to the dusty village center, which was beaten down into hard, packed earth from years of meetings and matches of strength held in this same spot. Tall pillars of aged wood ringed this circle, and women hastened to these, bearing torches which they fit into hollowed-out slots in each pillar. Soon the village center was bright as noonday, but with harsh red light appropriate for coming events.

Gaho stood in the center of that light, his heart ramming in his throat though his face was a stoic mask. All the waking village was gathered now, men, women, and children, standing just beyond the circle, watching him.

The drums came up from the river, pounding in time to the tramp of warriors’ feet. Then the warriors themselves were illuminated by the ringing torches, their faces anointed in blood, their heads helmed with bone and bronze, their shoulders covered in hides of bear, wolf, and boar. Ten men carried tight skin drums, beating them with their fists. They entered the center first, standing each beneath one of the ringing pillars. Other warriors followed them, filling in the gaps between.

Then the chieftain, mighty Gaher, appeared. He carried his heavy crescent ax in one hand, and Gaho saw that blood stained its edge—indeed, blood spattered the blade from tip to hilt and covered the whole of the chieftain’s fist. Gaher strode into the circle, and the boy saw more blood in his beard. But he also saw the bright, wolfish smile and knew for certain that his sister had been correct. The night of naming had come.

“My son,” said the chief, saluting Gaho with upraised weapon.

“My father,” said Gaho, raising his sickle blade in return.

“Are you ready this night to die and live again?” asked the chief. His voice carried through the shadows, and every one of the tribe heard it, and any and all listening beasts of forests and fields surrounding. “Are you ready this night for the spilling of blood that must flow before life may begin?”

Gaho drew a deep breath, putting all the strength of his spirit into his answer. “I am ready, Father.”

Gaher’s smile grew, the torchlight flashing red upon his sharpened canines. He turned then and motioned to the darkness beyond the torchlight.

The sacrifice was brought forward.


Personally, I cannot wait to read it… And there will be three people who won’t have to wait as long as most of us. Anne Elisabeth Stengl is offering a giveaway of three advanced reader copies of Draven’s Light.  Visit Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s blog to enter the giveaway!


7721_133549311830_623396830_3040333_1407935_n (1)ANNE ELISABETH STENGL makes her home in North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She is the author of the critically-acclaimed Tales of Goldstone Wood. Her novel Starflower was awarded the 2013 Clive Staples Award, and her novels Heartless, Veiled Rose, and Dragonwitch have each been honored with a Christy Award.

To learn more about Anne Elisabeth Stengl and her books visit:

Author Interview: Anne Elisabeth Stengl

I bid a happy Saturday to you all, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, readers and authors, friends and enemies. Today I have the honor of presenting to you Anne Elisabeth Stengl, a Young Adult Writer of the award-winning Tales of Goldstone Wood series. Her first novel won the Christy Award for best debut, her second, Veiled Rose, winning as a Visionary Novel. Book four of the same series won the Clive Staples award in 2013. But, formalities and awards aside, she’s my favorite author, and her works have inspired many people. Most of her novels are among my favorites list, and it’s a great privilege to be able to have her here to be interviewed.


Hello, Anne Elisabeth Stengl! Welcome to Red Lettering. It’s an honor to have you here. Could you introduce yourself to my readers?

Hullo, all! I am (as you see above) Anne Elisabeth Stengl, author of the ongoing Tales of Goldstone Wood series, a many-novel saga about the Near BannerforSeriesSmallerWorld, the Far World, and the Wood that stands Between. The series is currently up to six novels with a little extra novella on the side, and book 7 is going to release later this year! And there will be many more novels to come, so if you like what you see, you’ll be set for reading material for a while.

I have been working as a professional novelist for five years now (my first book released four years ago, but the work begins well before that!), and I absolutely love what I do. Except for those moments when I hate what I do. Even then I love it. (Does this make any sense? If you’re a writer, you’ll know what I mean!)

I am married to the handsome, the brilliant, the charming, the wonderful Rohan de Silva, who apparently likes girls who threaten him with swords. (We met at fencing class. He’s a better fencer than I, so I tried smack-talking him to even the odds a little. Apparently he likes smack-talk too.) We live with our six cats (What? I like cats!) and our one long-suffering dog in a little house on a hill, surrounded by a forest of bamboo.

     What is the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever heard?

The worst? “Never, never, never, never use the omniscient narrative.” I have heard this advice far too often, and it’s nonsense. The omniscient narrative (which is what I write) is a difficult narrative form to use well, but that doesn’t mean we should never use it. To this day other writers sometimes criticize my use of this narrative voice, but the readers enjoy it. It allows me far greater flexibility, enabling me to pack a lot of story into not terribly long volumes. It’s also the narrative voice used by all of my favorite modern novelists.

So, yeah. That’s terrible advice. If you’re a writer, give the omniscient narrative a try! It might not suit your writing voice, and that’s cool. But it also might be a perfect fit, and that’s cool too.

     Do you have a Bible verse, or group of verses, that you would consider your writing anthem?

I always turn back to Ecclesiastes 3: 11: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Success in writing, in drafting every novel, is entirely based on God’s timing and God’s perspective. Which is not always the same as mine. We measure success by such small, mortal standards, but these are not the same standards used by God, whose perspective is limitless and unfathomable.

This verse is timely and important for so many aspects of our lives. But when I think about an encouraging word I turn to for writing-related crises, this is always the one.

   What is your favorite fictional work, other than your own novels?

Hmmmm, well, I’ll pick the one that springs to mind in this moment, but I reserve the right to change my mind at any given moment!

Sir Terry Pratchett’s Nation is one of my favorites. It is a brilliantly written novel full of heartbreak and humor, set on an alternate-universe/colonial Britain/Polynesian island. Never seen that done before! Fantastic cast of characters, high-stakes plotting, wonderful payoff, bittersweet ending . . . this story has it all!

What impresses me most about Sir Terry Pratchett, however, is the way he can write about themes and philosophies that go against my own. Religiously speaking, he is a deist. And he presents his deistic ideas in Nation. I don’t agree with him; but I admire the way in which he incorporates his message into his story without turning it into a sermon. He makes his readers think in ways they maybe haven’t bothered to think before.

This is what I want to do with my own work. I want to write for readers who don’t necessarily believe the way I do. And I want to encourage them to think. I don’t want to preach. I don’t want to beat anyone over the head. But I want to make them think . . . to think that possibly there is more to this life than mere survival. More to this life than the god of “Me.” More to this life than disgrace, or self-aggrandizement, or power, or despair, or any of the things on which we tend to fixate.

I want to encourage my readers to consider the possibility of grace undeserved. And I want them to think about it.

So that’s why Nation is one of my favorite novels.

     Since random questions are always fun, have you ever stood on your hands while doing jumping jacks and eating peanut butter? If the answer is no, which do you prefer, coffee, tea, or Pepsi throwback? (If the answer is yes… what on Earth were you thinking?)

Well, I have never done that, but if there’s peanut butter involved, I’m willing to try!

I am a tea person. Particularly black Ceylon tea with a little cream and sugar. My husband was born and raised in Sri Lanka, so he knows all about good Ceylon teas, which he introduced to me when we started dating. I had thought I was a tea person before—but O! how wrong I was! He brews the perfect cup, and it is very inspiring.

But, if Ceylon tea is unavailable, I’m always happy to fall back on classic PG Tips or English Breakfast.

 What is a piece of writing advice you don’t often hear?

I don’t often see young writers encouraged to write authentically. There are a lot of rules on writing out there—how to create a dynamic character, how to craft a blockbuster plot, etc. etc. But I don’t see as much emphasis on authenticity, particularly not in the Christian publishing market, where writers are expected to fill in the Evangelical dots.

I always try to challenge my own writing students to think in terms of reality, not in terms of what they believe they should think about reality. To dive down to the gut issues that drive all of us, those universals that we don’t always like to acknowledge.

However, I could write whole essays and writing curriculums on this topic, so I’ll leave this answer alone for now. Still, think about it, writers. “Authenticity.” What does it mean to you?

   If you were walking into the vet’s office, and you met a character from the novel you’re currently working on, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?

Well, if it was a vet’s office, it’s probably Eanrin, who is a cat (though he sometimes looks like a man).  And if Eanrin is at the vet’s office, the End of the World is probably Nigh. Or Imraldera has him shoved into whatever the Goldstone Wood equivalent of a carrier is, and he is swearing, “Dragon’s teeth!” loudly enough to blister the ears. In which case, I probably wouldn’t have the guts to approach, much less say anything to him. (Best to let Imraldera handle him in such instances, you know?)

 What novel are you working on at present? If you can, could you tell us a bit about it?

Book six, Golden Daughter

I am putting together notes and ideas for Book 8 in the Goldstone Wood series. This one is going to be a challenge for me since it boasts a mostly new cast (though a few familiar faces definitely make appearances as well). It is also set a good 500 years after Book 7 (coming in November!) and in a completely different part of the world. So much invention must take place before the book itself can properly begin.

Thus I am researching and note-taking and brewing on that project. Hoping to start properly writing it in another few months, but we’ll see. I expect this book to take me a little longer to write than some of the previous Goldstone Wood novels have, which means at least a year between Book 7 and Book 8.

But I have a fun novella, Draven’s Light, coming out in spring 2015. I am currently gearing up to begin revisions on the rough draft of that one. TitleBannerThankfully, the rough draft is itself pretty strong, so revisions won’t take too long. It’s shorter than my regular novels, but at 50,000 words is twice as long as Goddess Tithe, my first novella. So it’s a nice chunk of reading for fans.


Thank you for having me on your blog today. It was lovely to ramble out these answers to your fun questions. Best wishes as you continue the plunge into blogging!

Readers, I would love to connect with you. Do please follow my blog, my Twitter, and like me on Facebook! You can also sign up for my newsletter. All great ways to keep track of the various Goldstone Wood doings.

Thank you so much for being here, Anne Elisabeth Stengl. I am eagerly awaiting the time when Golden Daughter and Draven’s Light come out. Thank you so much for writing such epic books, and for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to come be here. 


Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of the award-winning Tales of Goldstone Woods series, an ever-growing world of knights and dragons, mystical forests and hidden demesnes, unspeakable evil and boundless grace.
Her first novel, Heartless, won the Christy award for best debut in 2011, followed by an unprecedented consecutive win the next year for Veiled Rose, in its own category, and Starflower was most recently honored with the Clive Staples Award for 2013.

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