Shadow Hand (Tales of Goldstone Wood #6) – Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Shadow Hand Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Shadow Hand by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Also by this author: Golden Daughter, Dragonwitch, Starflower, Moonblood, Veiled Rose, Heartless, Fallen Star: A Short Story of Goldstone Wood, Draven's Light
Series: Tales of Goldstone Wood #6
Published by Bethany House on March 2014
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Fantasy
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four-stars

By her father's wish, Lady Daylily is betrothed to the Prince of Southlands. Not the prince she loves, handsome and dispossessed Lionheart, but his cousin, the awkward and foolish Prince Foxbrush. As her wedding day dawns, Daylily flees into the dangerous Wilderlands, her only desire to vanish from living memory.

But Foxbrush, determined to rescue his betrothed, pursues Daylily into a new world of magic and peril, a world where vicious Faerie beasts hold sway, a world invaded by a lethal parasite.

A world that is hauntingly familiar.

Up until this point in the Tales of Goldstone Wood, I would perfectly comfortable saying that you could read any novel as a standalone story, then retreat to the previous books. But Shadow Hand is different. It’s not that you must know of previous events in order to appreciate the storyline, it’s simply that the story is so complex and references so much that’s gone on before that you cannot fully appreciate the novel without some idea of the rest of the series.

Any one novel in the series is great, it’s when you understand the full breadth of Stengl’s world that you begin to see her brilliance. This story begins with Prince Foxbrush, made heir to the throne after the king’s son, Lionheart, was thrown out of the kingdom for reasons explained in previous novels. He is betrothed to Lady Daylily, whose cunning father wants to cement his family’s power by marrying her into royalty. Never mind that she is heels-over-head in love with Lionheart and thinks Foxbrush to be an utter fool.

On their wedding day, Daylily runs and Foxbrush pursues. And the rest of the novel follows the danger and adventure they encounter. Daylily and Foxbrush end up in a world completely different yet totally familiar…then own, just in a distant past. Daylily is taken in, and perhaps taken over, by a dark and mysterious force we’ve seen before. And somehow Foxbrush must figure out how to make things right again.

The storyline is complicated, spanning different timelines and explaining some things unexplained in previous books while furthering some mysteries for future books. My one major criticism is that it was very difficult to tell what was happening to Daylily, especially in her internal dialogue. I get that the point was to show that her very identity was in crisis and she did not know who she was, but the lack of explanation meant I spent two-thirds the book trying to figure out Stengl’s system. A little clarity here would have gone a long way.

Despite that, Shadow Hand is an excellent addition to the Tales of Goldstone Wood. However, it’s not the book you want to read first. A lot of the book’s enjoyment comes from the relationship with the characters and the mystery that you’ve developed over the first five books. Stengl is the veritable queen of Christian fantasy and with over a dozen more novels planned, her world stands right up there with the fantasy greats both past and present. Why don’t we give these books an HBO series?

four-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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