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Starflower — A Book Review

starflowerIt is a sad confession on my part to reveal that I have never read any of Anne Elizabeth Stengl’s “Tales of the Goldstone Wood”. And, now, I am reviewing a book that takes places thousands of years before those four books. I have missed out on a rich, immersive experience by not reading the first four books. I shall soon remedy that situation because “Starflower”, the newest entry into this “canon” of books is excellent. It is a moving fantasy far deeper than most fantasy; deep with character development; deep with thematic lessons; deep with a rich, lush tapestry of a world against which the action unfolds.

I will only be doing a one day book review because I have plans for finishing up my blog entries about the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth that transcend any religious devotion. I want to finish this by Christmas so I will be giving one day only to this review. And, all I can say is if you love Narnia; if you miss Middle Earth; if you enjoyed such stories as Alice in Wonderland, then you MUST read this book. Anne Elisabeth Stengl has created a setting in which rivers and trees come to life; a world in which animals talk and faeries can take on human or animal form. I haven’t encountered such a rich environment since I went back and rediscovered George MacDonald’s fantasy worlds. Those stories, by the way, were deeply inspiring to C. S. Lewis and he attributes MacDonald’s influence on his desire to create Narnia. The world of “Starflower” reaches those levels of fantastic believability

The Characters

The story begins with Hri Sora. Once a dragon and now stripped of her wings by the Dark Father, she cannot remember all of her former life. She can only remember a burning lust for revenge.

Eanrin is a bard, the prince of poets, an immortal faerie and part cat. I know it sounds strange but just like a cat, he is also haughty and arrogant until he meets the character of Starflower. He finds his inner strength.

Starflower is the maid and is cursed. Her trials and travails are what endeared her to me.  Made strong in her weaknesses by a love and a selflessness that even her cursed tongue cannot hold back.

The Story

The story begins with Hri Sora vowing to carry out a nefarious plan for the Dark Father in order to regain her dragon status. Hri Sora makes a deal with her father to bring back a special treasure. In order to do that, she must kidnap the Queen’s sousing who knows what the treasure looks like.

Eanrin goes after the kidnapped love of his life, Lady Gleamdren and in the process encounters Starflower. He comes across Starflower after she has drunk from the enchanted river. He feels sorry for her and agrees to take her to a witch owing him a favor and soon the girl is wakened from her deep sleep. Starflower is under a curse and cannot speak. He takes her with him as he pursues Hri Sora and, or course, we learn that there is a connection to the dragon witch! You’ll have to read the book and immerse yourself in this wonderful tale. Be prepared to be transported to a land of magic and enchantment! The story is fast paced and filled with moments of exhilaration and excitement. The world inhabited by the story is very complex and real; frankly refreshing and exciting.

I highly recommend the book to anyone who enjoy fairy tales and fantasy and I can’t wait to go and read the other four books!

In conjunction with the CSFF blogtour I received a copy of ” Starflower”.

*Book link – http://www.amazon.com/Starflower-Tales-Goldstone-Elisabeth-Stengl/dp/0764210262/
Author Website – http://anneelisabethstengl.blogspot.com/
Author Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Anne-Elisabeth-Stengl/120543861335559

Participants’ links: Be sure and check out these other reviews!

Gillian Adams
 Nikole Hahn
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Dona Watson
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

Beckie Burnham

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“The Realms Thereunder” by Ross Lawhead — A Book Review

“The Realms Thereunder” is an exciting and fascinating book of inspirational fantasy by the son of Stephen Lawhead, Ross Lawhead. The story centers around two young adults who vanished several years prior to the present only to resurface to a world that is now filled with danger. Daniel lives as a homeless waif, wandering the streets of Oxford looking out for the reappearance of vile creatures who inhabit an underground world filled with gnomes and trolls and “yfelgopes”.

Freya is trying her best to put the past behind her and her obsession with doorways and portals underscores her bad experiences from the past. For, both young adults disappeared into an underground labyrinth with ageless knights who battle a growing evil that threatens to destroy the world. And they did so simply by walking through the wrong opening!

Daniel and Freya traveled with the knights to the underground kingdom of Nidergeard. There, they meet the almost immortal sage, Ealdstan the Ancient who revealed that they alone could stop the coming war with his nemesis, Gad. The book weaves back and forth from the present to Daniel and Freya’s experiences in the past.

Freya is soon fooled into thinking she has joined a band of fighters preparing for the coming invasion and thus is neutralized. Daniel falls through another portal into a fairy land where he must commit a vile crime in order to return to our world in time to stop the coming evil forces.

The Sleeping Knights were a really fascinating and engaging feature of the story. I loved this aspect of ancient knights reawakening to defend the world against evil. I kept recalling the old knight in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” looking Indiana in the eye and saying “You chose wisely.” And, Ross Lawhead chose wisely. What great characters were these knights!

At first, the device of shifting back and forth between the present and the past was somewhat jarring. But, as the story progressed this feature was actually compelling as the story threads both reached a climax at the end of the novel. Well done.

“The Realms Thereunder” is well written and its fantasy worlds well realized and developed. The inspirational elements are toned down and, frankly, I would not call this book “Christian Fiction”. It functions well as a book in the secular world as well in the Christian fiction world. The reader will not be disappointed at the travails, trials, and triumphs of its two young adults. I can’t wait for book two!

 

* Book link –  http://www.amazon.com/Realms-Thereunder-Ancient-Earth/dp/1595549099/

Author’s Web site  –  http://www.rosslawhead.com/blog/

Participants’ links:

http://ofbattlesdragonsandswordsofadamant.blogspot.com/“> Gillian Adams

http://tessbissell.wordpress.com/“> Red Bissell

http://www.AdventuresInFiction.blogspot.com/“> Keanan Brand

http://rbclibrary.wordpress.com/“> Beckie Burnham

http://www.hiddenvalleysimplicity.com“> Melissa Carswell

http://jeffchapmanwriter.blogspot.com/“> Jeff Chapman

http://csffblogtour.com/“> CSFF Blog Tour

http://tweezlereads.blogspot.com/“> Theresa Dunlap

http://home.earthlink.net/~wyverns/“> Emmalyn Edwards

http://projectinga.blogspot.com/“> April Erwin

http://vicsmediaroom.wordpress.com/“> Victor Gentile

http://going-greene.blogspot.com/“>Tori Greene

http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com/“> Nikole Hahn

http://realmofhearts.blogspot.com/“> Ryan Heart<

http://fantasythyme.blogspot.com“> Timothy Hicks

http://www.christopherhopper.com/blog/“> Christopher Hopper

http://www.spoiledfortheordinary.blogspot.com/“> Jason Joyner

http://carolkeen.blogspot.com/“> Carol Keen

http://krystisbooks.blogspot.com/“> Krystine Kercher

http://mharvireads.blogspot.com/“> Marzabeth

http://www.shannonmcdermott.com/?page_id=189“> Shannon McDermott

http://rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com/“> Rebecca LuElla Miller

http://thebookfae.wordpress.com“> Mirriam Neal

http://www.questwriter.blogspot.com/“> Eve Nielsen

http://linalamont.blogspot.com/“> Nissa

http://www.leastread.blogspot.com/“> John W. Otte

http://dragonbloggin.blogspot.com/“> Donita K. Paul

http://www.bookwomanjoan.blogspot.com/“> Joan Nienhuis

http://justanotherbookbag.blogspot.com/“> Crista Richey

http://www.sarahsawyer.com/blog“> Sarah Sawyer

http://www.chawnaschroeder.blogspot.com/“> Chawna Schroeder

http://reviewsfromtheheart.blogspot.com/“> Kathleen Smith

http://www.mindsinger.com/“> Donna Swanson

http://www.rachelstarrthomson.com/inklings/“> Rachel Starr Thomson

http://christiansf.blogspot.com/“> Steve Trower

http://frederation.wordpress.com“> Fred Warren

http://www.fantasyandfaith.com“> Dona Watson

http://www.shanewerlinger.com/“> Shane Werlinger

http://www.theravenquill.blogspot.com/“>  Nicole White

http://finishedthebook.blogspot.com/“> Rachel Wyant

“Corus the Champion” a Book Review Day 2

As I mentioned yesterday, I will be posting a two day review since I am still in the process of finishing up this excellent book. Yesterday, I spoke about the four outstanding qualities of Tolkien’s work: Names, Songs, Geography and Companionship and I covered the first two yesterday. Today, I will cover the final two.

Geography. There are Nine Worlds connected by arches that move one not only through space, but through time to other worlds parallel to ours. There have been a spate of parallel dimension type fantasy books in the past couple of years. But, in my opinion, D. Barkley Briggs has created a multiverse that is deep and complex and believable. His descriptions of the mountains, the valleys, the cities filled with canals and decay; the frozen wastelands; the bloody battlefields and yes, the deep, dangerous forests once again reminds me so much of Tolkien. The places have faces; they live and breath; I can see them and smell them and taste them. And there are places I long to see and places I would never visit. Here is a description of the White Woods where the Fey dwell:

 “Finally, they drew near the bulk of trees — vast acres of beech and white birch, a few grand oaks — laid like miles of rumpled blankets on the high plains. Far beyond sight, Sorge said, the woods began their slow ascent along pine- and fir-covered slopes toward the Frostmarch.”

The Frostmarch! What a glorious name for a frozen wasteland of mountains! The city of Faielyn is patterned after Venice with gondolas and sinking buildings and canals but the similarity is so superficial and this city begs one to visit. There is a wonderful chase and fight scene through the watery canals and the cramped alleyways of Faielyn. I felt like I was there!

 

Companionship. Here, D. Barkley Biggs has created more than your average fellowship of travelers. Each character is complex and layered with subtle surprises that spring forth and just the right time to surprise the reader. The four brothers are each distinct and, quite frankly, are not that interesting at the beginning. After all, they are but pre-adolescents. But, as the story progresses, they grow and mature and grow on the reader. Each brother has a gift, a strength and I will leave the discovery of that to the reader. There are monks of the Circle who differ over seemingly trivial religious matters. One rogue monk, Barsonici reeks of body odor and yet spouts philosophy with the best of philosophers. His rival monk, Sorge, has many surprises in store and there is a very good reason he believes Corus is still alive and sets out to find the Champion to awaken the Sleeping King. And Corus, trapped, tortured, broken for over twenty years by the Deceiver himself, Kr’Nunos, the horned king daily tortures Corus, also known as the son of Lotsley (have fun figuring out who this person REALLY is!) Here is a snippet of the dialogue between these two:

 

“ . . . here you are, trapped in chains. Abused. Emasculated. Enfeebled. Why don’t you just die?”

Corus clenched his teeth. “Because I am a frayed patch in the garment of your glorious plan. My chains mean you fear my doom may be true, that I may one day stand beside a king, and the land unite.”

 

I could go on with more examples of this excellent story. Each brother has his own part in the story and it is worth discovering their journey on your own. If there is one weakness in my mind, it is the omniscient point of view from which most of the book is written. But, after reading Tolkien, I realized D. Barkley Briggs’ style is very much the same. And, that is nothing but a compliment!

Step slowly and carefully through the arch into the Nine Worlds and enjoy one of the best fantasy books I have read in years. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish “The Book of Names.”

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