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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

I have recently read Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. The book is the second in a series. Three have been published, and the fourth is due out next month. Here's my post on the first book, Heartless. There is not a Wikipedia article on Stengl, or her books, as yet. Here is the Amazon page for the author, and she has a blog, which sometimes includes material on her books.

Heartless was the author's first novel. There was no sign of her lack of experience in that book, and there is none in this one. The characters are three-dimensional, the plot is complex, and not easily predictable, there are a multitude of settings. The second book is mostly about events that took place before those in the first book, but they are told from a different viewpoint, and this unusual time sequence should not hinder readers. Either book should be enjoyable on its own.

I will try not to give away the plot in this post, but will muse on certain aspects of Veiled Rose.

First, a little about the world of Goldstone Wood. The land (perhaps a continent, perhaps an entire world) is divided into uplands, where humans live, by lowlands, where they don't. There are bridges between the uplands, not made by mortals. Stengl has also divided the lands into the Near World, which, as I understand it, contains the uplands, the Between, which contains the lowlands, and the Far World. (See here for more on this, from Stengl.) Fairies can enter the Near World, where mortals live, but they also live in the Between, and perhaps in the Far World. These three are perhaps three different dimensions, or three different universes, co-inhabiting the same space. Stengl doesn't make a huge deal of this -- her characters, and their lives, are more important -- but the idea of living in more than one world at once definitely adds to the book. Tolkien, for one, had a similar construction, as his elves and their evil adversaries lived in two worlds at the same time. But their appearance was different, depending on which world they were seen in. In Stengl, the appearance of a character seems to be the same in whichever World they are found. (Some characters, such as dragons and fairy knights, have two different forms, but they can take these without changing Worlds.)

There are Paths, made by the fairies, within the Near World, and, probably the other Worlds. Characters who can find those Paths can move rapidly between locations.

Stengl is a bit coy about these aspects of her sub-creation: "So we know of at least three realms of existence, three levels of reality. Might there be more?" Perhaps she didn't know, herself, when she wrote that, in June of 2011. Perhaps she did, but wasn't going to tell us yet.

Second, the characters. One of the main characters in the book is Lionheart, who is also known as Leo, and by other names. He is the crown prince of one of the realms in the Near World, and young enough to play in the woods, but old enough that he is allowed to play in them without supervision. The second main character is Rosie. Lionheart meets Rosie, a girl, perhaps human, perhaps not, while playing in the wood. Rosie's origin is uncertain, and she doesn't know it herself. She always wears a veil. Lionheart doesn't know why, but doesn't really care, as she becomes his best friend. But their friendship has restrictions. She doesn't come into the castle where he lives, and he can't always go into the woods to be with her. Their friendship, by the way, seems to be quite innocent. Perhaps they are somewhat in love with each other, but perhaps not. Very few people have seen Rosie, and when people do, many of them think she is some sort of monster. She can use the Paths, at least the ones in her area, and take Lionheart on them.

Third, evil beings. One type of evil beings is the dragons. The dragons are like dragons in many other books -- they can send fire out of their mouths, they can fly, they are intelligent and can speak, they can trap unwary humans who look into their eyes, or listen to them too willingly. But, like at least one of the dragons of Ursula Le Guin's Tehanu, they can exist in human form or dragon form.

There is some other sort of evil being, perhaps also a dragon, in the books. There are at least two of these, who have the power to tempt by speaking directly to the mind of mortals. The two are in some sort of competition. The theology, or whatever it should be called, of the Goldstone Wood books is complex, and much of it is not merely an imaginary replication of Christian theology, or any other kind that I am aware of. I do believe, as I indicated in the post on the previous work, that the Goldstone Wood books are written with a Christian world-view, but that the fact that it's only a world-view, not the message of the books, is a plus, as I see it.

Fourth, I will say this about the plot. Rosie and Lionheart do not get married in this book. There are other characters, one of them named Daylily, who has decided to do what her father wants her to, and get Lionheart to marry her. He doesn't do that, either. Daylily is a complex character, and a strong one, and there are things that she does that I didn't expect.

More could be said, but I'll stop. I will confess that I have already read the third book in the series. In fact, I've read all three books twice.

Thanks for reading.

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