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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 “Tales of Goldstone Wood”

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:
www.AnneElisabethStengl.blogspot.com

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

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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

DRAVEN’S LIGHT

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!

AUTHOR BIO:

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: www.AnneElisabethStengl.blogspot.com

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.

 

Characters

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.

Plot

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.

Setting

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.

Writing

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.

Other

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. 

Writing That Rough Draft: Guest Post by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Happy Wednesday, readers! Today I have great pleasure in having, as a guest-poster, the award-winning author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood Series. Everyone, please give a virtual round of applause for Anne Elisabeth Stengl!

way in deep forest

Writing That Rough Draft

By Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Hullo, readers! The lovely Athelas Hale, hostess of this blog, has invited me to write a guest post about rough drafting a manuscript. This is a timely topic for me as I am in the midst of drafting my newest novel in the ongoing Tales of Goldstone Wood series . . . always a character-building experience, let me tell you! So, with this topic very present in my life just now, let me give you a little rundown of what rough-drafting looks like for me.

For starters, I never try to write a book that is not at least partially outlined. My stories tend to be quite long—the shortest around 120,000 words, but most significantly longer. As such, they are also quite complicated, and without an outline I would quickly become lost and/or overwhelmed. So I always make certain I’ve got at least a short summary (2-5 sentences) of what I want to have take place in each chapter, pinpointing specifically those moments that will lead to the next chapter. That way I’ve always got some good forward-moving momentum.

When it comes to actually writing narrative, though, it’s all too easy for me to clam up and not know what to do. Once upon a time, I had thought writing would become easier the more I did it . . . but now that I’m drafting the 8th novel in my series, I know this will never be true. The pressure increases for each book I release—the pressure of readerly expectations, series continuity, and my own self-inflicted pressure of wanting to always write the very best book I have ever written.

If I let myself concentrate on these pressures, I’d never write another word. It would be too intimidating!

Instead, I start my books by pulling out a scrap of notepaper and scribbling down a scene. Usually this is a pretty rough scene, though on occasion it’s been good material and ended up in the final draft. But the point is not to write polished final-draft story; it’s to simply get the story started. Once a beginning is truly begun in longhand, I open up a file and type it out. Now I have the seeds of a manuscript . . .

While drafting this rough draft, I find it extremely important to write the whole thing as quickly as I possibly can. If I slow down and think about it too much, I’ll start crippling myself with doubt and self-critiques. But that’s not what the story needs during the rough-drafting stage. No, no, the story simply needs to be written. Those later drafts are for critiques and edits and polish.

So, following my outline—in which I’ve already worked out the rise and fall of plot leading at last to the climax and resolution—I pound out words as quickly as possible. These days, that means approximately 4,000 words a day. This is an ambitious goal for most writers and not one I recommend to everyone! But for me it works well.

For this particular draft, I have also been setting weekly goals of 20,000 words. Which means if I produce a steady 4,000 words a day, five days a week, I’ll meet my goal. But I include a couple of rules to help me meet this goal. They are:

“Golden Daughter,” the most recent installment in the Tales of Goldstone Wood Series.

1) I have to reach 4,000 words. Even if I don’t want to. And if that means writing some really bad material that I know will never make it into the final book, so be it! Words must be written. They can be altered later, but later is not now.

2) As soon as I meet my 4,000-word quota, I have to stop. Even if the story is going really well and I feel like I’d like to finish the scene! Nope. The goal is met. I must stop and close the file for the rest of the day, and not even look back over what I’ve done.

Both of these rules can be frustrating at times. I have those days when the writing is simply not working, and I hate trying to meet the quota. But as long as I’ve given myself permission to write badly, I can keep going. The important thing is to turn off the inner drive for perfection during this stage.

The second rule can be equally frustrating when I’m on a roll. I can write 5,000 words a day pretty often, and I have written as much as 11,000 words in a single day. So why should I stop at 4,000 if it’s coming along so well?

Well, 4,000 words is a comfortable goal for me. It’s a lot of word count without being extraordinary. Which means I end the day tired but not exhausted . . . which in turn, means I don’t get up the next morning dreading my work. I look forward to it.

This is an important lesson every young writer should learn about rough drafting: Successful drafting requires goal setting. But be certain to set goals that are both reasonable for you to achieve and simultaneously pushing you to produce. For me, that’s 4,000 words a day, five days a week. For you, it might be some other word count or some other number of writing days. I know of one author who writes 10,000 words, two days a week. Yikes! That sounds crazy to me. But it works for her. Another author I know aims for 1,000 words a day, six days a week. Sure, that’s only 6,000 words a week, but in ten weeks she’ll have 60,000 words of manuscript written. Not too bad, honestly!

Once you’ve established a reasonably challenging goal, however, it’s up to you to see that you stick to it through all distractions, both external and internal.

I hope this gives all of you aspiring writers some interesting ideas for how to tackle your rough drafts. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be written!

 

 

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. 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: http://www.AnneElisabethStengl.blogspot.com

You can connect with Anne Elisabeth Stengl at these sites:

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