My Goodreads Quotes

Allison’s quotes

"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

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book Review: Draven's Light, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

In the darkness of the pit, the light shines brightest.
In the depths of fear, true heroes are born.

And in a quiet village, a young girl listens to a story told by immortals.

Each day, a girl must bring water to the two brothers who labor to build a strange house on the hill.  No one can remember when they came, and no one knows when they will finish their work and leave.  Although they frighten the girl, the Kind One tells wonderful tales of adventure and courage-- such as the Coward and the Pit.

Draven was meant to be the next chieftain.  But he loses it all when he finds himself unable to comply with his village's barbaric practices.  But when their reckless behavior leaves them vulnerable to a mysterious curse, only Draven the Faintheart can defend them... if he can find the courage.

This is Stengl.  To say it is beautiful is absolutely redundant.  You can go into any Stengl novel or novella assuming the writing, imagery, and execution will be gorgeous, and you won't be disappointed.  It is equally redundant to say that I enjoyed it immensely!  That being said, Draven's Light reads slightly different from the past novels-- in a good way.  Of the novels, it is most reminiscent of Golden Daughter, which makes sense considering they're consecutively published.  It feels more mature than her writing ever has before.  There are some reflections on youth and aging that add a greater level of philosophy (although all the novels are quite thoughtful).

I was very pleased to see how much Stengl experimented with the structure of this novella.  It really isn't a long tale, and the double storyline gave it a pleasing depth.  We not only follow the story of Draven; we see it being told to a young girl years later.  It was completely unlike anything Stengl has done so far and absolutely lovely.

 As for the characterization, I was so, so impressed with the character of Akilun.  Stengl managed to write a character who is sweet, wonderful, and so, so kind.  He is a noble and great man, but he never becomes foreign because of this.

 That being said, I did not like the character of Ita.  She is the strong woman of this tale.  My problem is that she kicks her brother, Draven.  Repeatedly.  And it causes him pain.  I expected that this physical aggression would eventually be addressed, and it was-- sort of.  But it still made me uncomfortable.  I can hear you pointing out already that Stengl writes flawed characters.  She does-- absolutely!-- but I still feel that Ita was never put down as thoroughly as Una, who I found more likable than her.

 But the main thing that prevents me from giving Draven's Light a perfect ten for ten is this: it hinges on an unexpected emotional choice from a character the audience doesn't know yet.  So even though it's unexpected... because I was unfamiliar with the character, it didn't really resonate with me.  As the novella continued and I learned more about the character and the culture, his defying of social norms began to feel... strange to me.  He has been conditioned for this choice presumably since birth, but we never really learn what causes or allows him to overcome this except that it is in his nature.

That being said, this novella is a worthy addition to the Tales of Goldstone Wood.  Although it doesn't feature many of the popular canon of characters, it still draws heavily on established plots-- need I point out the unspoken comparison of Draven the Faintheart and Lionheart?  Yes, this novella is different than past Stengl.  It is darker, less fairytale and more folklore.  It doesn't feature as many familiar characters, and it is significantly shorter than her novels.  But it's still Stengl-- and that means it's pretty darn great!

*Disclaimer: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.*


Sarah said...

Great review! I'm looking forward to reading Draven's Light. :)

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for Draven's Light!!!!! I liked your review! Very well done!

Allison Ruvidich said...

Thank you both! It really was marvelous... Definitely worth waiting for!

Laura Pol said...

Sounds interesting in the way she wrote it! Sort of bummed we won't see some of the older characters in this one, but it sounds like it will be awesome on its own! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :)

Allison Ruvidich said...

I know, Laura... I guess we'll see them in Poison Crown? : D