Starflower, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
BOOK DESCRIPTION: When a cursed dragon-witch kidnaps the lovely Lady Gleamdren, Eanrin sets boldly forth on a rescue mission...and a race against his rival for Gleamdren's favor. Intent upon his quest, the last thing the immortal Faerie needs is to become mixed up with the troubles of an insignificant mortal.
But when he stumbles upon a maiden trapped in an enchanted sleep, he cannot leave her alone in the dangerous Wood Between. One waking kiss later, Eanrin suddenly finds his story entangled with that of young Starflower. A strange link exists between this mortal girl and the dragon-witch. Will Starflower prove the key to Lady Gleamdren's rescue? Or will the dark power from which she flees destroy both her and her rescuer?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, 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. She is the author of Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, and Starflower. Heartless won a 2011 Christy Award.
SERIES: Book 4 of "Tales of Goldstone Wood" ( The books can be read as stand-alone novels, but there is carry-over from book to book. Find more information and extras at the author's blog.
MY THOUGHTS: It's not often that I get nervous writing a book review, but this one has left me feeling a bit uncomfortable. I want to do it justice. I'm not sure I can say enough positive things about this book, which is, in my opinion, allegorical fantasy at its best.
When a simple girl is led into the world of immortals, we fall into a story I can best describe as a cross between Alice in Wonderland and the Chronicles of Narnia. It's a world where rivers and trees come alive, where animals talk and faeries change from human to animal form. The setting, the character development, the dialogue--all absolutely brilliant. I was in that world with our heroine and the egocentric cat-man that gets caught up in her plight, and I couldn't close the cover until I'd discovered how these funny, very human (but somehow not) characters resolved the grand plot.
All the elements of classic fantasy unfold as good and evil battle for the kingdom of men, but the deeper threads of this story present themselves as the characters each decide which side to fight for. As is common to man in the real world as well, the choice isn't always clear, and those presenting the choices can't always be trusted.
There were life lessons woven throughout this story, themes of love, friendship, loyalty, and sacrifice. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in Christian fantasy fiction.
Warning: I was a little mixed up for the first few chapters, as the many characters were introduced and their personalities came alive. If you have a hard time at first, I think this is on purpose, so stick with it! And don't let the complicated names throw you off!
PARENTAL RATING: PG. Some of the bad guys are really bad guys, and while no heavy violence is described, we must remember that we are dealing with a destructive, fire-breathing dragon intent on revenge, and various minions who could be scary for younger children. The sensuality that is often present in fantasy fiction isn't a worry with this book. The worst of it was vague allusions to the antagonist's desire for a young maiden, which were so vague that they would fly over the head of most younger teens. Both my girls have total green light to read this one ASAP--I'm already sure they'll love it!
**This book was provided to me by NetGalley.com in exchange for my honest review.