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?
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. Gaho—Draven, 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.
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.
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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.)