Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Shadow Hand - Anne Elisabeth Stengle

I kinda love this cover...the light and the vibrancy...
and then the thorns hinting at what else is there....
I also love the title. :) 

After finishing Moonblood last year (short review: I liked it. Eanrin. Cat. What can I say?), and helping with promotion of Anne Elisabeth Stengl's next book, I begged for a review copy and immediately started reading Shadow Hand, only to have my year completely run away on me. The number of fictional books I've read this year is tragically few...but I am glad that Shadow Hand was among them.

It's good. 

This is a story about blood.
And love.
And the many things that lie between.

By her father's wish, Lady Daylily is betrothed to the Prince of Southlands. Not the prince she loves, handsome and dispossessed Lionheart, but his cousin, the awkward and foolish Prince Foxbrush. As her wedding day dawns, Daylily flees into the dangerous Wilderlands, her only desire to vanish from living memory.

But Foxbrush, determined to rescue his betrothed, pursues Daylily into a new world of magic and peril, a world where vicious Faerie beasts hold sway, a world invaded by a lethal parasite. 

A world that is hauntingly familiar.

It is the story of Foxbrush and Daylily...but the world and those who live there are indeed hauntingly familiar, no matter how many turns the time-twisting story takes.

If you remember my first impression of Lionheart...I wasn't a huge fan.  Do you know how incredibly satisfying it is to see him now following the Prince of Farthestshore, growing, and working to become who he should be? I absolutely loved that aspect of this story - it takes a lot of talent to take a character I was so upset with and turn him into one I wholeheartedly enjoy, but Anne Elisabeth has done it beautifully. Sometimes a single POV is best, but the marvelous intermixing of story threads here allows you to follow everyone through their journeys (all of which are fascinatingly different), while bringing in new storylines and new themes for each novel. Lionheart's journey may be one of my favorites.
I vowed to follow you, his heart whispered desperately. Is this right? Is this what you would have of me?

Not that I was not happy to see the others. Felix was back, which made me ridiculously happy. I've always rather adored that boy. :)
And really, was it any of Felix's business whom these dragon-eaten foreigners chose to make their king? He had only to stand here, representing his nation with dignity (or boredom), as was right and proper.
 "Yes, I know, I know," Felix said impatiently. "I've sprained and broken my share of limbs." And I've killed a dragon, so put that on your plate and eat it!
Eanrin and Imraldera were both back, to my joy and sorrow. (Sorrow because...ow, ow, ow...even Knights of Farthestshore stumble sometimes as they follow their Prince. And it hurts when they do. Joy, because...read these quotes.)
Sir Eanrin, clad in scarlet with a gold-edged cape and a feathered cap, removed said cap and ran a hand through his tawny hair, as much a cat in this form as he was when more blatantly feline. "I am first and foremost a Knight of Farthesthore, even as you are yourself, my girl," he said with an easy grace and confidence that never failed to make Imraldera want to smack him. "Servant of Lumil Eliasul and all that."
"I've begun composing a new ballad, you'll be interested to know," he said. "An epic.""Lights above save us," Imraldera muttered without looking around.
"It's high time you did a bit of work around here again.""Aye, because we wouldn't want goblins breaking through a gate unguarded now, would we?" said Eanrin, pausing in the doorway. "Not like last time. Oh, wait! Whose fault was that?"He ducked before her inkwell struck. 
"Eanrin?" she called. "What's wrong?""Oh, nothing much," he replied. "Just lions and gore and fainted youths. The usual, you know." 
 I would keep going, but you really just need to read the book. XD

Foxbrush...was incredibly well done. How his story circled around was a delight to a reading writer, and I will say no more of it except that I much enjoyed it.
He grabbed his nose and caught the sneeze so that it burst angrily in his head and ears. "Um. Pardon me," he gasped, rubbing his eyes.
The woman stared at him. "Did you explode?" she asked.
He shook his head.
Her eyes narrowed. "I think you exploded."
Daylily...
In the darkness of this place under that midnight sky, Lionheart's face glowed. A glow of change, of growth, of life beyond anything Daylily had ever known or experienced. The closest thing to it she remembered seeing was in the face of a newly opened lotus flower just as the first breath of morning touched its petals. It had seemed to respond with a song of color and vibrancy that Daylily herself could not hear but could just barely see. It was a sight she hated, for she could not share it. And she hated it now in Lionheart's eyes. 
Her story is terrifyingly dark, and seeing the cost of refusing to listen when the Prince spoke...the result of fearing to surrender...was not pleasant. But seeing with it the patience and persistence of that Lord was a beautiful thing, no matter how her story went, and in the end, all was as it must be.
But she had known, even in that distant glimpse she'd had, that this person, this Man, was someone she must either love or hate. There could be no other response to him.
I think it is when the Prince of Farthestshore appears that I love the story most. The Tales of Goldstone Woods are not strict allegories, but they are pictures, and in the pictures I see myself and I see my Prince, and it challenges me to walk His paths wherever they lead me, no matter how much or how little I know, so long as I am obeying His voice.
"Let it go. Release the wolf into my care and keeping, and I will show you how the worst in you, all that you most fear, may be transformed. Let the worst be made the strongest, the truest, the best!"

In looking at what some other reviewers had to say about Shadow Hand, it seems the ones who did not like it were not expecting fantasy or were not expecting a book in the middle of a series. So be aware that is a beautifully complex fantasy world, and if you're expecting a breezy read before you fall asleep, this isn't it. And the richness of the intertwining stories is only increased by reading them all in order. (I haven't, and still loved it. But I can conceive of loving them all more were I to read them close together. XD) But if you're willing to take the time to enter Goldstone Wood and to explore the truth and beauty that awaits you...Shadow Hand is certainly one in the series that will well reward that time.

"Such is the truth of stories. It all comes back to blood and love in the end."

2 thoughts shared:

Joy said...

A beautiful review! I love "The Shadow Hand", actually I've read the whole series, as it progresses, and have loved each new story of Mrs. Stengl's more and more! Foxbrush and Lionheart are my favourite in this book, as well as Lark, and the CAT! :D

Ooh, and you should read Starflower and Dragonwitch. They're amazing, amazing books in the series. After that, read Golden Daughter. . . that's pretty epic too, and as Oriental touch which I think you'll enjoy. . .

Happy New Year! God bless.
Joy @ joy-live4jesus.blogspot.com

Katherine Sophia said...

Thanks, Joy! Starflower I have read, and very much enjoyed. (Eanrin. Again. XD Actually everyone again...) Dragonwitch I have not read, or Goddess Tithe. I HAVE Golden Daughter, unlike the other two, which tempts me to read it first... :) Someday I want the whole series on my shelf. :D
I hope you have a beautiful 2015!

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