One of my favorite new authors is Anne Elisabeth Stengl. Her Tales of Goldstone Wood combine the wonder of fairy tales with strong, intriguing characters. In Starflower, the fourth book in the series, readers step back in time, thousands of years before Una, Rose Red, and Lionheart were born, to learn the secrets of Earnin and Imraldera.
Previous hints have been dropped at a past between the two, and in Moonblood, Lionheart identifies her with Maid Starflower, a legendary heroine of Southlands and the mysterious "Silent Lady." In Starflower, readers meet a much younger Earnin, still dashing, who is infatuated with King Iubdan's sister Gleamdren. When she is captured, Earnin sets off to rescue her, but his quest is interrupted by the discovery of a Mortal in the wood.
Eanrin grimaced at the sight and almost put her down again. After all, a princess with dreams like those probably had a tale of woe to match. She would certainly wake with expectations of a handsome hero to aid her. As far as Eanrin was concerned, a dash of heroism was one thing, but commitment to a cause? Never. Rushing off to the rescue of Lady Gleamdren was different, for he had determined that she must be his wife and the sole inspiration to his life’s work. Besides, he loved her.
This creature meant nothing to him.
But blood oozed from the abrasions on her wrists. And her body, mortal and vulnerable, lay in his arms. Eanrin rolled his eyes heavenward as though to seek some holy aid. Then he braced himself and wiped the mud off her lips with the edge of his cloak. She frowned in her sleep and stirred, but did not wake.
“Nothing for it,” he muttered. Closing his eyes and trying not to smell her any more than he must, he leaned in and kissed her . . .
Our favorite poet is not inclined to be a romantic hero--at least, not for anyone besides Lady Gleamdren. But his softer side gets the better of him, and he becomes entangled in Starflower's adventures. From pursuit by black Dogs to the mysterious Hound, they are pursued by strange, frightening forces.
I really enjoyed seeing how my favorite characters became who they are in the later books, from Earnin's hidden depths to Imreldera's origins. The writing was rich and captivating, easily pulling me into the world the author created. I also appreciated the spiritual elements, which added depth without becoming preachy or cliche. In an epilogue, the author acknowledges the influence of the poem "The Hound of Heaven" on this book. I'd highly recommend that poem for a further insight into this work.
Five of Five