Heartless – Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Available July 1st, 2010)
From the Back Cover…
The Dragon King Seeks His Princess– Who Dares to Stop Him? Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon marry. She dreams of a charming prince, but when her first suitor arrives, he’s not what she’d hoped. Prince Aethelbald of mysterious Farthestshore has travelled a great distance to prove his love–and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be on the hunt and blazing a path of terror.
Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald’s offer–and ignores his cautions with dire consequences. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in his sights. Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.
After reading the rather cliched back cover copy, I approached this book with skepticism… I hoped it wouldn’t be that bad, but I kept putting off reading it because I didn’t want to start yet another mediocre fantasy and have to write a lukewarm review on another ER book.
Honestly, it didn’t start well… it was a bit slow, the writing style was in that vague, flow-y fantasy vein that tends to annoy me to no end (why can’t the author just SPEAK PLAINLY?!), and the plot seemed rather generic.
So, imagine my surprise when, in the second half of the book, I became extremely invested in the characters, the plot, and the world that Stengl created. In fact, I read the entire book in one sitting… I think I got up once to refill my tea mug.
The book has its weaknesses: the heroine is a bit underdeveloped, and the love story feels somewhat contrived. But it also has its strengths: the way dragons are born was unexpected and unique, and the hero (and his rival) are rather interesting on their own terms.
One thing to note is, I spent the first two thirds of the book waiting for the ‘Christian’ part of the book to happen… it’s published as a CBA book, which usually means some form of evangelism will appear at least for a few pages (even in the rare CBA fantasy novels), and imagine my delight when I realized that… it wasn’t coming. There wasn’t going to be a forced ‘Christianese’ aspect to the world, rather, the book simply reflected a Christian worldview and let the story stand on its own as a well written, interesting fantasy novel.
I will say that I don’t think the book will be for everyone. I’m also not entirely sure how this is going to develop as a series, which is clearly the author’s intent — I think it does well as a stand-alone.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through LibraryThing.com’s ER program.