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"Don't you think it's rather nice to think that we're in a book that God's writing? If I were writing a book, I might make mistakes. But God knows how to make the story end just right--in the way that's best for us."
Do you really believe that, Mother?" Peter asked quietly.
Yes," she said, "I do believe it--almost always--except when I'm so sad that I can't believe anything. But even when I don't believe it, I know it's true--and I try to believe it."— E. Nesbit

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Favorite Books: Number Three-- The Tales of Goldstone Wood, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, a bored princess longed for true romance.  She bided her time until a dashing prince came along, disguised as a jester.  He had fled from his true kingdom because a dragon-- um--

Once upon a slightly more distant time, an incorrigible prince (see jester in first paragraph) befriended a mysterious, veiled girl.  After her father died, he found her a job in his household, but they were interrupted by a dragon, which caused the prince to leave his country to find the ring of a princess (see paragraph one) who also owned a cat, only the cat wasn't really a-- er-- hang on a moment--

Once upon a really long time ago, a cat was travelling through a distant wood, searching for his beloved, but instead he found a maiden trapped in eternal sleep.  She had come from the same kingdom as the paragraph-two prince, but she had left her sister behind, a sister who would go on to sire the kings who eventually led to the prince from paragraph two, who is also the jester from paragraph one--

To aid with your understanding of the overall plot, I made a helpful character-relationship chart outlining a few of the basic characters, who knows whom, what sort of clique they belong to:


Image compiled by Dame Allison.  Yes, I did knight myself for this diagram.  I think the Prince will forgive me.

Take a moment, please, to admire the workmanship in this diagram.  Such exquisite detail, and such small figures!  Alistair is looking lovely in leaf-green, and may I point out the meaning of Jovann's coat?  Rose Red, I must say, was a joy to draw.  I wish I could warn you that it might contain spoilers, but if you can glean information from this, you have a keener mind than I.

My point in all this is that you can't take the middle ground with the Tales of Goldstone Wood, be it in your synopsis or in your appreciation of it.  I could either spend pages or a single sentence summarizing this series.  Taking the lazy-girl's route, I choose to use one sentence:

These books are mad.

The Tales of Goldstone Wood series is stunning.  Although based on myth and folklore, it is utterly unique.  Although massive in size, it is grounded in a handful of familiar characters and has a cozy, personable feel.  I know this might be controversial, but have you seen Tolkien on this list?  There's a reason for that.  (The reason is that he's on my favorite classics list.  But I also like to think this list is too small for both Stengl and Tolkien.)

These books are completely unlike anything else on the market right now.  The novels follow the Knights of the Farthestshore as their adventures span thousands of years, dozens of characters, and hundreds of worlds-- all connected by Goldstone Wood, the Wood Between, the mysterious space between worlds...

Unlike virtually every series ever, the Tales of Goldstone Wood does not have an over-arcing plot arc, besides the general struggle between good and evil, man and immortality.  They don't even continue with a uniform cast of characters or socially-accepted flow of time (although one character in particular has appeared in every novel).

So where do you begin with a series this huge?  Heartless is technically the first book, but I started with Starflower, and that worked just fine for me.  Be warned, though: these books (particularly Veiled Rose and Shadow Hand) are not easy to read.  They will stamp on your affections and reduce you to a little crying heap.  Particularly if, naming no names, you're not the most observant reader, and you didn't catch the change in time streams in Shadow Hand, so a certain scene near the end that we needn't go into the details of threw you into great and wild sorrow, so heart-wrenching that you had to take a shower and have a cry before you could bear to read the epilogue!

Uh.  Right.  You'd never do something that silly.  But I digress.

I first picked up Veiled Rose shortly before my fifteenth birthday.  It was the second book in a series, of course, but nothing confused me, so I read most of it.  Something unsettled me, though-- the promises of something beyond the story, something I needed to understand to fully grasp this book.  It frightened me.  So I put the book away and forgot about it...

... until a few days before my fifteenth birthday, when I desperately needed quality literature to celebrate the occasion.  I remembered the name Starflower from Veiled Rose, so I checked it out.  The special day rolled around, and I spent it lounging in the sun on my trampoline, reading Starflower.

I'm sixteen now.  I've been reading this series for over a year and a half, and it has only grown closer to my heart.  (I even managed to sneak my way into Golden Daughter!)  And as I've read these books, I've gained a deeper appreciation for Anne Elisabeth Stengl, who is not only a gifted author but also a lovely person.

I'm sure many of you have read these books.  And if you haven't, you're in luck; they're available in libraries, so check them out, either in person or online.  You won't regret it.

Come and walk with me in the Wood Between.

Reminder: Comment on any of the favorite books posts for a chance to win any book from the list!  Entries are capped at one per post.  Earn an additional entry by mentioning that Hannah from the Writer's Window sent you; you can do this on multiple posts.  Tomorrow's post will feature a young man of uncertain lineage, a simile-loving princess, and an oracular pig!

One last thing: shout-out to my readers in Canada, Germany, and Venezuela!  Merci, danke, and gracias!

11 comments:

Hannah said...

Great review! And fun diagram! Hehehheh! I actually gleaned quite a bit. And noticed your little hint concerning the male character of Golden Daughter. ;)

Tomorrows the Chronicles of Prydain!!!

Allison Ruvidich said...

Hahaha! I confess, I don't think I'm providing the most subtle clues... And thank you; I had great fun with that diagram. What I lack in artistic finesse, I make up for in enthusiasm!

Sarah said...

Heh. Nice diagram. And I like the way you put it- that the list is too small for Stengl and Tolkien. (My list, as a note, is not. But my list is also bigger than it looks.)

ghost ryter said...

I've saved your diagram, and shall be using it as I try to explain these books to my mom--who I finally coerced into reading them. : )

Athelas Hale said...

I knew this one was coming. :D And I like your diagram... I have pinned it for easy access.
Oh, the next one shall be the Chronicles of Prydain! (Of course, Hannah got it before I did. :p)

Allison Ruvidich said...

@Sarah- Thank you! Is your list, perhaps... bigger on the inside? (Sorry. Had to say that!) : )

@Ghosty- Do you mind if I call you Ghosty? I'm so glad you like it!!

@Athelas- Thank you!! And you are so right. : )

Allison Ruvidich said...

Oops! I almost forgot! @Hannah- Thank you!

LadySaotome said...

Haha - I have to say I did the exact same thing (shower and cry before reading the end) when I read The Two Towers (Tolkien) at the age of 16. Only I'm pretty sure I flung the book across the room after I calmed down enough to finish the book and discovered he wasn't dead after all. ;)

Allison Ruvidich said...

I unfortunately did not have that same experience with the Two Towers. I read it when I was around eleven, and I was completely baffled by the dense language. So when the big moment came, I was less distraught and more like, "I'm sorry, who is this?"

Allison Ruvidich said...

That being said, when I finished Return of the King (which I read in three days, versus the years it had taken me to read the first two), I went out onto my porch (it was raining) and cried.

LadySaotome said...

Yes, Return of the King has such a bittersweet ending.