Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Lands of the Near and Far: My First Foray into Fantasy Fiction

     Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Who Will Dare to Face the Dragonwitch? 

Submissive to her father's will, Lady Leta of Aiven travels far to meet the future King of the North Country and a prospective husband she neither knows nor loves.
But within the walls of his castle, all is not right. Vicious night terrors plague Lord Alistair. Whispers rise from the family crypt. The reclusive castle Chronicler, Leta's tutor and friend, possesses a secret so dangerous it could cost his life and topple the entire nation.
And far away in a hidden kingdom, a flame burns atop the Citadel of the Living Fire. Acolytes and priestesses serve their goddess to the limits of their lives and deaths. No one is safe while the Dragonwitch searches for the sword that slew her twice...and for the hero who can wield it.

     Welcome to a world that is not limited by reality. Welcome to fantasy fiction. I know that this doesn't fall in line with my new fiction, but when I received an e-mail and this book was on the list it immediately caught my attention. The cover had this absolutely gorgeous red-headed female on the front, and looked King Arthur-esque. I do enjoy fairy tales so I thought I would give it a whirl, and here I am. Let me begin by saying that if you do not find fantasy appealing, than you it probably isn't your cup of tea. There are dragons, fairies, different worlds, mortals, immortals, talking cats, and shape shifting beings. 

     When I saw the title, I have to admit I was a little scared off. It did come from Bethany House Publishers (one of my favorite publishing companies, that just happens to be christian), however so I was willing to give it a go. Just so you know, when I read a book I don't put it down. I pick it up, sit down, and read it. Sometimes I am interrupted, and when I am I don't usually feel any real compelling force drawing me back to the book in wonderment thinking of what will happen to the characters, just me wanting to read the happy ever after. But, when I put the book down I couldn't stay away from it. I had no clue in which direction it was going in, it seemed to be a mystery. 

    When I finally started connecting the dots, I was amazed at how deftly the author had weaved together so many different characters and their own goals and failures. When I started the book I felt like so many things were going to happen, and when I got the subtle hints that maybe they weren't going to happen that way, I was pretty upset. But when I got there, I fell in love with the story and I knew the character's hearts. It is beautiful. 

     As for the way the book is set up in general: You need to be aware that at the start of every chapter there is anywhere from one paragraph to a page of italic text that tells a different story. The story does weave in, and the further you read the more it makes sense. You just need to wait it out, because when you get to the end, you will be glad you did. Also, many times when the chapter changes so does the point of view. Sometimes it can be hard to keep track of all the names (especially as several of them are similar), but if you are reading these books in series order it will be easy for you to handle.

     Dragonwitch is the fifth book in a series called the Tales of Goldstone Wood. The previous books are (and in order): Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower. I haven't read those yet, I was introduced to Dragonwitch first. If you would rather read these in order, I applaud you. It would be much harder to just pop in. You have to take a lot of time to understand the mere basics of the reality Ms. Anne has just dropped you in. 

     I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Here is an excerpt of Dragonwitch

The Twelve came to the doors of Omeztli Tower and their voices carried from the ground to our high perch above.

"Cren Cru commands. Send us your firstborn."

I clutched Tlanextu's arm in terror. I could not bear to lose him! He took my hand and held me gently.
Then we saw a powerful form rising up from Itonatiu Tower. It was Citlalu, our father. He flew across the city, his wings like a griffin's, like a roc's, blocking the sunlight from view they were so vast! He landed before us, and I shivered with fear and love at the sight of him, for he was King. A true King.

Not like the foolish little kings we see nowadays wearing crowns, waving swords and scepters, ruling by feeble kinship-rights. He was King of Etalpalli, bound to the realm by his own blood, by the beat of his heart. He was strong as the nation itself, stronger, I thought. The pinions of his wings were like daggers, like swords, and he shouted down to the Twelve below:

"Be gone, back to your master! You will take none of mine into that Mound, not while I have life yet coursing through my veins!"

His voice shook the foundations of Etalpalli. I thought the Twelve would run, would scream with terror, would flee the storm of his gaze.

They did not. They merely turned and retraced their path to the Mound and the concentric circles of bronze.

But the next day, they returned. Once more they called up to the heights of Omeztli: "Cren Cru commands. Send us your firstborn."

Once more, my father denied them.