Draven's Light | a review
by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Tales of Goldstone Wood 7.5)
In the Darkness of the Pit
The Light Shines Brightest
Drums summon the chieftain’s powerful son to slay a man in cold blood and thereby earn his place among the warriors. But instead of glory, he earns the name Draven, “Coward.” When the men of his tribe march off to war, Draven remains behind with the women and his shame. Only fearless but crippled Ita values her brother’s honor.
The warriors return from battle victorious yet trailing a curse in their wake. One by one the strong and the weak of the tribe fall prey to an illness of supernatural power. The secret source of this evil can be found and destroyed by only the bravest heart.
But when the curse attacks the one Draven loves most, can this coward find the courage he needs to face the darkness?
I am scrambling to write this review for "Draven's Light" tonight, after I just finished reading it this afternoon; somehow I managed to forget to both read and post a review of my ARC e-copy before the end of June, and then when I remembered I got exceedingly busy in the past few weeks. But these apologies aside, let me dig right into this review!
This morning, in a sudden flurry of panic, I realised how behind I was on my job of reading and reviewing Anne Elisabeth Stengl's latest release, and hurried to rectify that by flipping open my laptop and reading through most of the pdf. file today! I am not a fan of reading e-books, so I was more reluctant than usual to go back into the "Tales of Goldstone Wood" series which I dearly love. I had been taking my easy time with it for some months, but then today I decided to just get through with it, and while it is only 190 pages long, I flew through the rest of the 150 pages of it with a bated breath, and much delight. Stengl is such an excellent writer - I'm constantly in admiration of what she achieves through her "Tales of Goldstone Wood" series.
Actually, I had started to forget how much I love Anne Elisabeth Stengl and her beautiful stories, and so it was so refreshing and lovely getting back to her books after a bit of a break! She has such a magical, old-fashioned charm of telling a good, wholesome, moving story with beautiful themes, lots of fairy-delights, heartening, inspiring characters, a captivating style of omniscient lyrical prose, and a godly Christian worldview to really set the foundation of these novels/novellas. I loved 'Draven's Light' so much - far more than I imagined I would - and it was simply so good!
So where shall I begin? There are so many facets that I loved in this short little novel, it's hard to pin them all down.
Draven's Light is technically a novella, and so a little separate from the main body of "The Tales of Goldstone Wood" but it features characters from the series, especially Aiklun and his brother, who are important Goldstone Wood figures especially in "Dragonwitch" (one of my favourite books in the series). . . so that was wonderful. If I were to fit this book into any of the styles of Stengl's previous books I would say "Draven's Light" most reminded me of "Starflower" - it had elements that reminded me so much of it, with the setting being tribal in both tales, the thing of sibling relationship being a prominent factor in both stories, and the female heroine having a physical infirmity, and the whole idea of "the Giver of the Name" as an important theme that the characters of "Starflower" and "Draven's Light" encounter - I found all these things very special, and made me love the novella all the more.
This story is quite dark - not as dark as some of Stengl's most recent novels, but I have to say it got quite intense around 3/4 through the story, as the threads of events and characters came to a climax, and there was so much suspense! The enemy in this story is a terrifying one, a sort of creeping shadow that latches onto the victim and sucks its life away... there were several moments that I was quite creeped out, and not a little frightened like the little girl in the story, for how it would end for our two main characters Draven and Ita. . . and yet the theme of light in the darkness was so inspiring and there flickered in the dark shadows of horror and despair, a clear ray of hope to the story - I loved that this story, in all its grimness and sadness was filled with Christian hope, light and faith! It was lovely, and so uplifting. I can't describe it as anything but upliftingly bittersweet and tragically beautiful.
I loved the writing style, and the way the story was told, as a story within a story - Akilun and the grandmother (Stengl) telling the little girl (and us) the story of Draven and weaving the tale together into the present in a beautiful, beautiful way! Stengl has grown so much in her writing from book to book, and the way she uses omniscient, old-style narrative suited this story in particular. The plot was gripping and tightly structured, and the ending! Oh, Lume love us, the ending was heartbreaking and really sad, but also wonderful. It all came together, and left me with such a painful little ache. . . it was perfect in its sadness and I loved how, while I sort of guessed how the story would end, I did not feel like I had lost the "surprising" twist at the end. . . instead I felt a sense of satisfaction and joy at the way of things. <3 :')
And now I must speak of the characters. Draven was such a well-written, noble, heartening character. . . his story arc was really heartbreaking but very moving! The thing that made me love him so much, though, was his care and protection of his sister - that was so special! I totally did not expect this when I started this story, but I just loved the close friendship and understanding Draven has for his sister. And likewise, Ita for her brother. . . her loyalty, and fierce, wolfish courage and love - it was just fantastic to read about! They are new favourites to the wonderful cast of characters that inhabit "The Tales of Goldstone Wood". Probably my favourite of the characters in this story though is the little Girl (we only really know her name at the end so I won't spoil that name for you!) and her listening to the story that Aiklun and Grandmother tell her, going and coming daily to bring water to the Brothers as they build the House of Lights. Her character development, and growth as a child was so lovely and sweet! She felt so real to me and her desire to grasp the truth of things so close to my own heart. I liked her so much indeed!
There really isn't anything that bothered me at all with "Draven's Light", nor anything that I found lacking in the story as well (other than I would have loved it to be longer!). While quite dark and sinister (and there are a few scenes that I would describe as quite violent), yet Stengl's writing is really clean and wholesome and encouraging, with a delightful absence of any innuendoes or overly romantic suggestive/explicit scenes. Stengl's stories are always packed with adventure, fairy-tale charm, wholesome tales of friendship and sweetness of love and chivalry, brotherhood, courage, sacrifice, faith and hope in the darkness. If I can put her writing-magic into words, I would say she reminds me of authors such as C.S. Lewis, Elizabeth Goudge, George MacDonald, Rosemary Sutcliff and even Tolkien - (But honestly, she does not rip off from them, only derives much inspiration from them like a true artist) ^_^
All in all, just go and read Anne Elisabeth Stengl, and if you've read her other books in "The Tales of Goldstone Wood" series, 'Draven's Light' is one not to be skipped! I loved it very much, and am now only looking forward with more anticipation than ever for the release of "Poison Crown" Part 1 and Part 2. . . !!
Rating for this Book: five stars!
*I received a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.