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.]

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