Book-y Things, Music

Book Review: Golden Daughter by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (and other things)

Dearest Interwebs;

Congratulations! You are again being treated to one of those “Betsy just doesn’t feel like editing before publishing” posts, which I know you absolutely adore because they make you feel better about your rationality.

Anyhow, I’m writing this en route back to Wild & Wonderful West Virginia. Thanksgiving break was delightful–with the obvious exception of the persistently terrifying cave crickets, which fortunately didn’t consume too much of my soul this trip–and now it’s back for the final two-and-a-half-week rush. This first week I’m affectionately referring to as “Death Week,” and the second I’ll term “Lesser Death Week.” This week includes the Christmas concert at the far end–for which I am a chorale member, Jubilate member, orchestra member, piano accompanist, prelude-player, and student conductor, because I make poor life choices sometimes–and the music theory final project at the near end–for which I keep staring at a partially-written piece of music blankly, muttering things like “rounded binary” and “leading tone resolution” and “passing 6-4 progression” and “dominant of the dominant” fruitlessly, hoping that such highbrow musical terms will inspire me. (So far, they haven’t much.)

“Now Betsy,” I hear you sweetly interjecting. “If this week is actually as deadly as you make out and you’re not just exaggerating again, why in the name of Sweet Bojangle’s aren’t you working on these things?”

While I appreciate your kindness (and your masterful use of idioms), this has a rather simple answer: a while back I volunteered to be an influencer reader for Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s lastest work, Golden Daughter, which I as to have done by November 30th. Which is, coincidentally, today! Why didn’t I review it over break? Because I was too busy taking naps. Worth it.

Anyhow, without further delay, on to the review.

golden daughter[That picture looks like I’m posting it with a terrible resolution, but I’m hoping it’s my screen.]

Golden Daughter

BEYOND THE REALM OF DREAMS IS A WORLD SHE NEVER IMAGINED

Masayi Sairu was raised to be dainty, delicate, demure . . . and deadly. She is one of the emperor’s Golden Daughters, as much a legend as she is a commodity. One day, Sairu will be contracted in marriage to a patron, whom she will secretly guard for the rest of her life.

But when she learns that a sacred Dream Walker of the temple seeks the protection of a Golden Daughter, Sairu forgoes marriage in favor of this role. Her skills are stretched to the limit, for assassins hunt in the shadows, and phantoms haunt in dreams. With only a mysterious Faerie cat and a handsome slave—possessed of his own strange abilities—to help her, can Sairu shield her new mistress from evils she can neither see nor touch?

For the Dragon is building an army of fire. And soon the heavens will burn.

As, I’ve mentioned before, I’m a pretty big fan of Ms. Stengl’s “Tales of Goldstone Wood” series. (Should that title be underlined? Italicized? Quotation-marked? Left alone?) Anyhow, that series–I like it. Golden Daughter was an absolutely fabulous addition, staying true to the series while still introducing something completely new.

One of the “new” things Golden Daughter introduces is the setting; while Heartless began in a fairly traditionally-flavored European-esque fairytale scene, Ms. Stengl hasn’t limited herself to that in following books. This particular book explores the Empire of Noorhitam, previously mentioned mostly in passing. (Well, I can’t say that for certain: the novella Goddess Tithe, so I hear, goes along with this work, but as I have yet to acquire Goddess Tithe, my knowledge is rather limited.) Noorhitam has a distinctly Asain flavor. Do you know how much fun it is to read fairytales that aren’t European-based? It’s not only fun, but it helps to keep the series fresh and unique.

While it’s different in its cultural setting, however, Golden Daughter ties in quite beautifully with the rest of the series. It’s rather incredible to me, actually, how Ms. Stengl can take a theme from one book and make it into a whole ‘nother story… Honestly, most of the connections fly completely over my head. One of the main characters, Sunan, appears as a rather insignificant (I thought) ship captain all the way back in book two, Veiled Rose…but I wouldn’t have remembered that if someone else hadn’t pointed it out. And all the references to the “goldstone” and the night of moonblood and the temple of Ay-Ibunda and Una’s ring…details which I wouldn’t have connected somehow come together. Actually, reading Golden Daughter made me want more to re-read all the other Goldstone Woods books, because I am completely sure I would catch a lot more subtleties now. Someday when music theory isn’t calling. Until then, if someone else cares to make some sort of index or glossary or timeline or something, that would be fantastic.

There’s a lot more I could say–about the characters (I loved Sairu, and Eanrin’s back, being chased by a fluffy lion dog names Rice Cake, no less!), about the plot (Mysterious? Check. Complicated? Check. Engaging? Check.), about the development of Ms. Stengl’s writing (I found Golden Daughter to be adult-ier than the beginning novels, if that makes sense…not that the others were juvenile…you know what I mean…I hope), about the length (deliciously long!!)–but this is already getting pretty lengthy.  A few random thoughts, and then the summary:

  • I wouldn’t recommend starting the series with this book. While you technically could–each book is written in a fairly stand-alone style–I still think Heartless is the best starting point.
  • As I mentioned, I found this book “adultier,” even a little bit darker at a point or two. Ms. Stengl has always been good at writing realistically, dealing with both the good and the bad, both the beautiful and the blighted, but it’s getting deeper. Not uncomfortably so, but so nonetheless. Evil exists, and she doesn’t shy away from portraying that.
  • I wasn’t as crazy about the allegory in this book as I was in some of the others. Heartless was a fairly straightforward Gospel allegory, and the subsequent books have delved into other themes. Golden Daughter has a Joseph theme, which , to my great chagrin, I didn’t pick up on until it was pointed out to me. I did, however, notice a fairly strong Revelation likeness, which I just wasn’t quite as comfortable with…probably because Revelation is already pretty debated about, and allegorizing an already-debated book just sits wrong on my dispensational upbringing, you know? However, I don’t think expounding on eschatology was Ms. Stengl’s purpose here.

In summary, I really liked Golden Daughter (though Starflower still has the most feels for me). One of my favorite things about the series is Ms. Stengl’s ability to create realistic characters is non-realistic settings. While I don’t expect to ever go dream walking, witness an attack on the Lady Moon, or discover a temple made of voices, I can see myself in the characters that did. They had weaknesses and temptations and failures like me, and sometimes they had strengths and victories like me, and that is what I love about these stories. Without departing from her previous books, Ms. Stengl has created an epic that’s fresh and surprising and ancient and familiar and believably unbelievable and heartbreaking and joyously glad. Read it. You’ll be glad you did.

Now. Music theory time!!

xoxoxoxoxoxo (just in case I don’t make it),
Betsy

disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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Celebrations, Five Glass Slippers

A Truly Auspicious Day

Today–Monday, the twenty-first of April, Anno Domini 2014–is a very great day.

Why? Two reasons.

First, and of utmost importance, my big-little brother turns sixteen today. Sixteen.

Five-year-old me was dead set on having a baby sister. I can remember quite clearly, in fact, yelling at my oldest brother in disbelief when he told me that Mom had had a boy. How could he insinuate such things? Liar! Of course Mom was going to have a girl!!

Then Grandma and Grandpa took us to the hospital, and I got to hold my baby brother. It was love at first sight. Who wants baby sisters anyhow? (Just kidding–I also love them. In fact, when Lilly was born I think Ruth and I maybe screamed a little in happiness. But that’s a different story.)

Fast forward–isn’t that a strange phrase? Just think, not so long ago its meaning would have been completely unintelligible. Now we use it as if it has always been in our lexical arsenal. At any rate, fast forward sixteen years, and now that adorable baby boy is now a handsome young man. (Does that embarrass you, Ben? You’ll notice I didn’t use the term “cute” because even I know that’s going over the line.) However, more than just being attractive, Ben’s grown into a godly young man who knows how to work, who knows how to take responsibility, who knows how to protect the ones he loves, who knows how to hug. I’ve had my share of bossy-overbearing-big-sister moments, and he’s had one or two of his own moments, but overall, God’s given us a good relationship. Ben, I just wanted the world to know (and by “world,” I mean “my four followers”) to know that I love you, I’m proud of you, and I thank God that you weren’t a girl. Happy sweet sixteen! Want to can more beans this summer?

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P.S. For bonus points, sing “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen” to Ben today. Also, I want video evidence.

Of secondary importance, I was interviewed by Anne Elisabeth Stengl today! (I repeat, if you haven’t read her books, do.) Hop over there to join the conversation and enter to win a fabulous Five Glass Slippers mug! You know you want it.

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Please ignore the black eye I have in that photo. My webcam is terrible, but the best way for me to take selfies.

May your Monday be as fantastic as mine is looking to be!

 

Five Glass Slippers

A Subject Conspicuously Absent

So I realized that on this blog I have never even mentioned something in my life that is super incredibly and overwhelmingly exciting to me.

ImageFive Glass Slippers. A book. That I’m part of.

I heard about this creative writing contest last summer, hosted by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (if you haven’t read the “Tales of Goldstone Wood” series, do. Re-reading ALL of them is very high on my list of things to do this summer). She’s one of my favorite authors, and by “favorite” I mean I picked up Heartless one evening during finals and loved it so much that I read the entire thing in like 2.5 hours. Even though I was supposed to be working on finals. And then I re-read it that same week.

Okay, okay. You can judge me if you want. Honestly, reading the entire book twice in one week instead of working on final projects and stuff was probably not my wisest choice ever. The book was just that good, though.

Anyhow, so I fell in love with her books and even paid real money to buy some. Then I heard about this Five Glass Slippers contest.
“Well, that would be cool,” I thought. “Maybe I should try…” I’ve always enjoyed writing, after all; why not? I washed dishes until inspiration hit, then set to work last June. I pulled many late nights/early mornings writing away, justifying it by saying I was “getting used to China time.” I had my story mostly finished by the time I left for China, then put the final touches on it in August before leaving for ABC. Now I just had to submit it.

It was difficult submitting it. I’m not a fan of critique. What if I would fail? I put it off as long as possible. The deadline was December 31st; even though I had it completed in August, I didn’t send it in until the very last day I could. And even then, I almost didn’t. It took much encouragement and convincing from Mother, Mother, Best AND Dearest OF Mothers, Ruth, and Berea. They brainstormed with me until a name was chosen: “What Eyes Can See.” (You don’t want to hear any of my other ideas. They were pretty cliche and completely boring. Next time you see Ruth, thank her for sparing you from those.) I signed my name, made my final revisions getting the word count down (working until the very very last minute possible, of course) … and off it went.

March 1st was the date Ms. Stengl had chosen to announce the winners, so until then it was just waiting and homework. Much to our delight, the date was bumped up to February 1st. I fell asleep that Friday night dreaming about Five Glass Slippers, and woke up thinking about it. “She hasn’t announced it yet this morning,” I thought to myself. “You may as well go back to sleep. Plus, you’re not even on the winners list.” I rolled back over. “But…you never know…I mean, it can’t hurt to check really quickly…”

Quietly, so as not to disturb my roommate, I got out my laptop and waited anxiously for the wifi to connect. (Thankfully, not a lot of students are doing stuff Saturday mornings, so it didn’t take too long.) I made my way directly to Ms. Stengl’s blog. My stomach was more fluttery than it had ever been in my entire life.

“What happens when Cinderella is so painfully shy that she cannot bear the idea of attending the royal ball?” I read. My eyes grew three sizes bigger. That was my story. First on the list. (Sometimes alphabetical order really works in my favor.)

I freaked out so. stinkin. much. But quietly. Jenna was still sleeping. February 1, 2014, was one of the most exciting days of my life.

Until June 14, that is. Because on June 14, my story will be released in a book. In fact, you can go pre-order it on Amazon now!

Honestly, I am not sure why I haven’t blogged about this before. Probably because I’ve been squealing all over facebook for the past months, and all y’all except the few silent stalkers I’ve accumulated (hi out there! Don’t be so shy!) are my friends on facebook, so I didn’t think you needed to hear more squealing. But today I’m squealing here.

alkja o;fiaje klaenf oaijg aerlfkj!!!!!!!!!

(That was my squeal.)

Isn’t it gorgeous?!

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