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 “Golden Daughter”

Book Review: Golden Daughter by Anne Elisabeth Stengl


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.

    In summary

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.

Golden Daughter on Goodreads

On Amazon

On Barnes&Noble

*”Amazingness” is a word. I just created it. 

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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