Saturday, August 14, 2010


Title: Heartless
Series: The Tales of Goldstone Wood #1

Author: Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Genre: Teen (13-16 years) Fantasy

Excerpt from the prologue of Heartless:

Two children, a brother and a sister, played down by the Old Bridge nearly every day, weather permitting. None observing them would have guessed they were a prince and a princess. The boy, the younger of the two, was generally up to his elbows in mud due to his brave exploits as a frog catcher. His sister, though significantly more prim, was often barefoot and sported a few leaves and flowers stuck in her hair. She thought these romantic, but her nurse, when she brushed the princess’s hair at night, called them “common,” and said it with a distinct sniff.

This never stopped the princess, whose name was Una, from weaving daisies and wild violets and any other forest flower that fell under her hand into garlands and coronets, with which she festooned herself, thereby transforming from an ordinary princess—which was rather drab—into a Faerie Queen of great power and majesty. Felix, her brother, was never a Faerie. He, by dint of a few expert dabs of mud in the right places, made himself her gremlin guard instead and waged war against all her imaginary enemies.

A young princess navigates the treacherous waters of suitors seeking her hand…and her heart.

The Craft: Heartless is a technically correct novel that seems to lack…well, heart.

The premise promises plenty of adventure. The setting provides a unique twist on the typical medieval fantasy world. The characters are complex and motivated, intersecting in fascinating ways, while the plot is well-paced. The prose itself has a simple, lyrical quality to it.

But for all these things done well, Heartless failed to connect with me as a reader at the most basic and necessary levels. This is quite possibly due to who I am, because of my own personality and personal tastes. Nonetheless, it left me sad that such a promising story failed to spark my imagination and capture my heart.

The Content: Heartless did not overly impress me with its thematic material or its spiritual threads either. However, this may be tied to the fact I had a hard time connecting with the story overall, for it does have many good things to say about protecting one’ heart and giving it away wisely.

As for other gray area issues, the magic is restricted to characters that are not human (with one instance of fortune telling, which is soundly rebuked), and the minimal violence is handled with care.

Summary: While Heartless failed to thrill me, this is possibly because of my personal preferences, and many teenagers who love the fantasy genre may find in this novel a delightful tale.

Rating: Craft—3, Content—3, Overall—3.3 out of 5 stars

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