Also by this author: Golden Daughter, Shadow Hand, Dragonwitch, Starflower, Moonblood, Heartless, Fallen Star: A Short Story of Goldstone Wood, Draven's Light
Series: Tales of Goldstone Wood #2
Published by Bethany House on July 2011
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Fantasy
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Rose Red trusts no one with her secret. She hides in the forest, her face veiled in rags, shunning the company of all save her old father and her nanny goat. Her life is bleak and lonely.
Until she meets a privileged young man sent to spend his summer in the mountains. Leo, a lonely lad, befriends Rose Red, and together they begin hunting for the Mountain Monster which, rumor says, stalks these lands.
But the hunt which began as a game holds greater risk than Leo supposes. Rose Red can scarcely guess at the consequences should he insist on continuing his search. Dare she trust him with her secret? Or tell him what dwells at the top of the mountain in the cave only she can find?
Above all, when Leo asks Rose Red to leave the mountain and follow him to the low country, dare she agree and risk the wrath of a Monster that is all too real?
Veiled Rose is best described as a companion novel to Stengl’s 2010 debut, Heartless. The novel follows a few of the same characters and expands upon a storyline given a brief reference in Heartless. Near the end, the storylines intertwine in a surprising but powerful way, providing depth and background to the fantasy world Stengl has created.
Veiled Rose begins several years before the events of Heartless, back before the dragon had taken Parumvir, back when his chess pieces were just being set, back when Lionheart was only a child. In Heartless, it is mentioned that the Southlands were taken by a dragon. This is the story of how that came to be.
But first, we begin with Rose Red. Rose is an enigmatic mountain girl who lives with the man she calls father (a gardener for the royals), a goat named Beana, an imaginary friend, and a dream man. The dream calls to her often, wooing her with eloquent words, promising to be her friend…and yet also insanely jealous of anyone else she might meet. Rose is also covered in rags from head to toe, veiled so that her face cannot be seen. She is not sure what’s wrong with her, only that the man she calls father has warned her not to show herself to anyone.
Meanwhile, Prince Lionheart is a child spending his summer with his cousin. But cousins and studying and other princely things soon get boring, leading Leo to instead spend as much of his summer possible hunting the monster that allegedly lives in the mountains. And it’s on one of his hunts that he meets Rose Red. The two become fast friends, and though the years go by, they are brought back together. Back together to face the mystery of Rose’s past and the terror of their present as a dragon descends on Southlands.
Veiled Rose is a much more complex story than its predecessor, covering a number of years and traversing almost the whole of Stengl’s universe. In many ways, the novel provides setup for the story that’s come before, in others it offers the same story from a different perspective. Having parts of this novel mirror parts of the previous novel was an ingenious literary device that Stengl pulls off flawlessly. Thematically, the story is also more complex, focusing on the lessons that each character needs to learn. Even in the end, not everything is solved and not all evil is eradicated.
This novel won an unprecedented consecutive Christy award, this time in the Visionary category, and it’s easy to see why. The unique literary structure and the depth that it brings the story makes it a must-read. Yet, Veiled Rose functions well as a standalone novel as well. Stengl’s writing improves here, especially in letting the story give life to the analogies and themes she’s writing. She also teases us with some characters I’m sure we’ll see in future books.