Goddess Tithe Novella Review

Well, here I am, taking a little break from NaNo to write this novella review of Anne-Elisabeth Stengl's latest book release, Goddess Tithe. I am not all as savvy with book-reviews as I should like to be but when Anne-Elisabeth sent me a digital copy of her novella to read on the condition that I review it, it was really quite hard to resist! I know a while ago two of my friends asked if I could write a review or something of the kind here on Fullness of Joy for Heartless, the first book in Stengl's Tales of Goldstone Wood fantasy/allegorical series which I got to read earlier this year. I also got to read one of the later novels in the series, Dragonwitch which I perfectly loved! So far I have not had the opportunity to review either of them, but I hope to do so soon, Lord willing, when I come back from my NaNo-break :). At any rate, here is my review of Goddess Tithe... 

P.S. I have a feeling that you'll hear me talk about The Tales of Goldstone Wood and Stengl's books a bit more in the future on Fullness of Joy!

Goddess Tithe
Anne Elisabeth Stengl

(synopsis taken from Goodreads)

THE VENGEFUL GODDESS DEMANDS HER TITHE. When a stowaway is discovered aboard the merchant ship Kulap Kanya, Munny, a cabin boy on his first voyage, knows what must be done. All stowaways are sacrificed to Risafeth, the evil goddess of the sea. Such is her right, and the Kulap Kanya's only hope to return safely home. Yet, to the horror of his crew, Captain Sunan vows to protect the stowaway, a foreigner in clown's garb. A curse falls upon the ship and all who sail with her, for Risafeth will stop at nothing to claim her tithe. Will Munny find the courage to trust his captain and to protect the strange clown who has become his friend?

"Fans of Tolkien and the darker tales of Faerie will be drawn into Stengl's effusive prose and wonderfully scary worlds." 

-USA Today

My Thoughts:
First of all, I have to admit that I am viewing this novella of The Tales of Goldstone Wood, from the perspective of having only read two books before in the series (the first and last novels only). Heartless was a enough of a 'background' for me to help me grasp the story and setting and Dragonwitch added the depth that made me connect with many elements in the tale, but I think full appreciation of it can be best acquired from reading the second book Veiled Rose first (that's my presupposition anyway since I have yet to read the full series).

But back to Goddess Tithe... 
This story is beautiful. It is touching and exciting and full of faerie-beauty and sea lore! One of the favourite things I enjoyed about this story (just as in Dragonwitch) was the cast of characters. They were very real and interesting. They were characters that endeared themselves to me and pulled me along with them into the thick of their lives and dreams: the sailor Munny with his boyish dreams of returning to his mother -- he is such a courageous little fellow! , Tu Puch who teaches him to tie his knots and made me cry (sob!), Captain Sunan--such a fascinating and heroic character, Leonard the stowaway who I have met before and makes me so curious to know his full story (he's quite funny in Goddess Tithe), and Risafeth the goddess of Vengeance; she reminded me a great deal with the Sea Serpent in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The plot was captivating and well-written - the ending was so heart-wrenching and bittersweet, and yet it was the perfect type of ending. I loved the dialogue-- I think Anne Elisabeth Stengl excels when her characters do not understand each other's languages and try to interact and communicate!! But perhaps what I loved about Goddess Tithe the most was the themes that were woven through the story so beautifully -- ones such as courage and faithfulness, justice and grace and sacrifice. While not being explicitly 'Christian' in plot, this story is full of the transcendence and hidden beauty that poignantly reflect the authoress' Christian perspective and worldviews. One of my favourite lines in the story would be that moment when the Captain tells Munny, "Vengeance cannot abide the agony of grace."

I have to say the more I read of Stengl's writings, the more I admire her work! She's very good.  I should hate to ruin the story for you, so all I'll say is I highly recommend Goddess Tithe and that you really ought to read it! I also very much enjoyed reading Heartless and Dragonwitch and look forward to reading more of her books by and by.

Rating for this Book: five stars!
I received a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.