Friday, April 25, 2014

Shadow Hand: Review

It’s time to go back to Faerie-land with Anne Elizabeth Stengl's Shadow Hand!

Cover ArtThere's a fairytale within a fairytale, but be careful: those who live in Faerie or the world between aren’t tame creatures, and they don’t see things as mortals do.

When Lady Daylily runs away from her wedding—her second wedding, actually—she flees into the unchancy Wood Between, where she expects to lose herself. And those who lose themselves in the Wood never come back. Instead of dying, though, she becomes trapped in darkness, rather like the wolf she has trapped in her own mind.

Prince Foxbrush has grown up with fairytales and books, but he prefers numbers and facts to make-believe. He knows the faerie people are just a story—until he follows his runaway bride into the Wood and gets snatched out of reason into a struggle between past and present, hope and despair, evil and truth.

There's a mysterious path that Foxbrush can't see, and a bird that sings to Daylily, warning to her to go back, to let go, but faerie-land is drawing them both in.

Stengl made it onto my favorite-author list a couple years ago. Stengl writes Christian fairytales, and Shadow Hand is the latest book in her Tales of Goldstone Wood series. I’ve been looking forward to this book for a while and enjoyed the read.

Still, you know that uncomfortable feeling when you rather like a story, but… ?

I do like this story. If I could summarize it, the basic idea might be that you don’t have to be the sweet princess you think everyone wants. It’s okay to be a princess who is a fierce protector. It’s okay for the princess to save the prince—and it’s also okay for the prince to sacrifice himself for the princess.

At the same time, the book felt long during the first half of the story and a little disturbing toward the end. I haven’t thought Stengl’s writing slow before, and so it was a little disappointing here. Plus, while this is a stand-alone story, Stengl brings in a number of characters from the other books. Partway into Shadow Hand, I really wanted to stop and re-read the rest of the series, just so I could have those characters’ stories fresh in my mind.

Mostly, though, the story is good, and a couple of the supporting characters made it a great read. My favorite was Baroness Middlecrescent, Daylily’s mother—a silly, semi-hysterical woman with too much sense to let her scheming husband get his own way. And then, of course, there are all the inhabitants of Fairie and the Wood Between—those petty, flighty, terrifying beings of another world.

Like Stengl’s other books, Shadow Hand makes a fun, imaginative blending of romance and fantasy. And if a fairytale sounds like fun (as it should with this series), I’d just suggest checking out Starflower or Moonblood before you jump into this book.

[My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for sending me a review copy of Shadow Hand in exchange for my honest opinion of the book.]

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Easter!

Life has been busy in the past couple of months--my apologies for not posting more regularly.

I'd like to get back on schedule and post something every week, if only to make sure I'm still writing occasionally. Unfortunately, my other projects are taking up most of my spare time at the moment. It's also much easier right now to pick up a book, so I won't promise anything more than a post now and then. You can expect to see a couple new book reviews soon, though. I should post one later this week, and I'll be part of a blog tour late in May for a new fantasy author.

In the meantime...

Spring is here!

The rain has been back this week, but there's a promise of sunshine to and in eternity to come. Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ladrones: A New Type of Reading Material

Let’s suppose…

Let’s suppose that you know someone is doing secret work for the government.

In fact, someone is carrying on an ‘ultra-secret’ investigation for the military, trying to track information in an espionage case. So, what do you do?

When someone drops by to talk to a person who happens to be gone at the moment—the same person you know is gone because he’s doing an espionage investigation? Obviously, you say, “Sorry, Dad’s not here—he’s working on an ultra-secret case for the Navy.”

Okay, maybe not?

Unfortunately, I happened to start reading another book not long ago … Los Hardy Boys: El Espía del Pentágono.

Okay, let me explain.

I wanted to work on reading out loud occasionally, but Marriage and the Family in the Middle Ages wasn’t working. Then, of course, I haven’t done much Spanish practice in recent weeks. Since I love combining two needs, I decided the occasion called for me to read something in Spanish…and the book I happened to have around was a Hardy Boys’ story in Spanish.

So, it wasn’t a top-secret case; it was un asunto ultrasecreto—and yes, the Hardy Boys went and blurted that fact out to their visitor within two minutes of meeting him. I used to think only Chet would do something like that.

Even better, I’ve also found that the book is about to mix genres in a small way. The Hardys are heading off into Amish country to investigate weathervanes.

Of course, reading the first chapter, I had to guess that valetas are weather vanes. Turns out that my guess was correct. That just as well. Otherwise, I might have needed to make up my own story about the Hardy boys rescuing antique weathervanes from a band of ladrones, chasing them down horse-and-buggy style.

That story might have gotten a little mixed-up, though. Right now, I’ve swapped to listening to Anne of Green Gables via a Librivox recording

I must be reliving my childhood.