Golden Daughter (Tales of Goldstone Wood #7) – Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Golden Daughter Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Golden Daughter by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Also by this author: Shadow Hand, Dragonwitch, Starflower, Moonblood, Veiled Rose, Heartless, Fallen Star: A Short Story of Goldstone Wood, Draven's Light
Series: Tales of Goldstone Wood #7
Published by Rooglewood Press on November 2014
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Fantasy
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four-half-stars

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.

Officially, the Golden Daughters are a myth. Unofficially, they are one of the most elite sets of bodyguards ever trained.  The best and brightest and most beautiful set aside and trained as the perfect weapons of defense: trained to spot assassins, capable of taking down the most trained of killers, more knowledgeable in matters of international relations than their royal husbands will ever be. And of all these Sairu has proved herself to be better than her sisters.

Officially, the Dream Walkers are a myth. Legend says that the temple of the Moon-goddess Hulan can be accessed through dreamwalking, but none ever reached the deity’s throne. These days, the Dream Walkers pale in comparison to the ancient ones. Except for Lady Hariawan.

Two exceptional women. Two mythical orders. One intertwining task. When Hariawan ventures too far into the dream world, she returns as a shell of herself. Sairu is recruited to be her bodyguard on the journey to a place that could possibly restore her health.

Included in all of this is Juong-Khla Sunan, the half-breed despised by both his peoples. His journey is integral into this story as well, as the mythologies of the various people groups and the realities that lie behind those fictions. Over and above all, it is a tale of grace and redemption amid violence and chaos.

Stengl weaves her storylines across lands and through worlds, into and out of mythologies and realities, all with an eloquence and melodiousness that makes Golden Daughter a beautiful book to read. She especially highlights strong, confident female characters that are a refreshing addition to epic fantasy.

However, I do warn you of its complexity. Though the seventh in a series, Golden Daughter stands alone within the Tales of Goldstone Wood universe. You can read it without any prior knowledge of the series. But within the book itself, the story is complex and, at times, meandering.

Stengl’s work is never fast-paced and page-turning. Instead, it grabs you and forces you to slow down and enjoy the beauty and mystery of the worlds she has created. Golden Daughter starts off slow—a bit too slow, in my humble opinion—and builds the back story of the main characters for quite some time before starting on the journey proper. Get through this section and the story will fall together nicely and have you reading until your eyes cannot stay open any longer.

The previous volumes in the series were published by traditional publisher Bethany House, but beginning with Golden Daughter Stengl has decided to release the series with her own imprint called Rooglewood Press. The change means greater creative control over the editorial and layout process and the storyline reflects this. Golden Daughter is lengthy (near 600 pages), which is not unusual for the fantasy genre, but I can’t help but think a traditional publisher would have asked Stengl to speed up and pare down the slow introduction to her story. Positive changes include the addition of a glossary of sorts at the end of the novel. Altogether, the change is a great move for Stengl as she continues to flesh out her universe.

I don’t know how far this journey will go. Stengl has stated that she could continue the rest of her life writing in Goldstone Wood and, if the stories continue as they have, I will be along for the ride until the very end.

four-half-stars

About Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, NC, 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.

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