Monday, 5 August 2013

Blog Tour: Dargonwitch by Anne Elizabeth Stengl

Dragonwitch (Goodreads)

Who Will Dare to Face the Dragonwitch? 

Submissive to her father’s will, Lady Leta of Aiven travels far to meet a prospective husband she neither knows nor loves–Lord Alistair, future king of the North Country.

But within the walls of Gaheris Castle, all is not right. Vicious night terrors plague Lord Alistair to the brink of insanity. Whispers rise from the family crypt. The reclusive castle Chronicler, Leta’s tutor and friend, possesses a secret so dangerous it could cost his life and topple the North Country into civil war.

And far away in a hidden kingdom, a fire burns atop the Temple of the Sacred Flame. Acolytes and priestesses serve their goddess to the limits of their lives and deaths. No one is safe while the Dragonwitch searches for the sword that slew her twice…and for the one person who can wield it

My thoughts . . . 

I first saw this book on Netgalley and was instantly suckered by the cover (intriguing) and the name (I love dragons). I had requested it before I even read the blurb. Then I saw that Kathy at I Am A Reader, Not A Writer was offering a blog tour for this so I signed up. My post should have been up yesterday, but to be honest I have really struggled with every aspect of this book, but I saw too much merit in it to just declare it a DNF. (Though I admit I was sorely tempted up until about 40%) 

I understand now, (after doing a bit of research) that this is the fifth book in a series Tales of Goldstone Wood (Goodreads) Although it's supposed to stand alone, I think I would have found it easier if I had read the others. So what are the problems and merits?

Problems first. 

Like many fantasy authors, Stengl is big on unpronounceable names. You know the kind I mean, hit a few consonants on the keyboard, chuck in a few vowels, and there . . . we have a name. The trouble with this is that there are a lot of characters and places to be remembered and having awkward names did not help with understanding.

But that was a minor problem compared to the real biggie . . . The plot follows three distinct story lines with three distinct sets of characters - immortals, mortals, fey, goblins, and just about everything else in between. While it all eventually starts to come together (at about 40%, according to my Kindle) I spent a good chunk of my reading scratching my head, wondering what was going on. I kept slamming my Kindle cover shut, saying to my husband "That's it. Done with this." But I wasn't done, because regardless of my many, many frustrations, I pushed on. Why?

The Merits

The characters whose story I did undertand (and whose names I could pronounce) were compelling. By this I mean Alistair, the Chronicler and Leta. I instantly attached myself to them. I wanted to follow them, to get to know them, to empathize with them. I'll give Stengl her due, she can create brilliant characters. Once I got the gist of what was happening in the other story lines, I fell in love with the Cat Man too. And as for the Dragonwitch - the baddie in this book . . . well, she is superbly drawn. I don't think I have ever read her equal. And that is some praise given some of the bestsellers I've read over the years.

As mentioned, the story line is complex, very, exploring religious themes, good versus evil, inner beauty and strength versus outward perfection, jealousy, love . . .  the list is almost endless. I don't think there is a major literary theme not covered. But there was also constant action, good dialogue, not too much description, and - one I figured out what was happening (60%) - it flowed quickly. Romance is alluded too, but it was pretty predictable how it would all work out. 

So The Big Question?

Did I enjoy it?

I wish I could give you a definitive answer, but I can't. I feel a bit iffy about it. It was compelling. The writing is excellent. The plot imaginative. The themes interesting. The characters step off the page. But I didn't love it. That doesn't mean that you won't, though, because if I look on Goodreads, I am way in the minority. Most people gave it five stars. Me? Three shiny blue stars who talk to people and turn into unicorns.

Meet the Author

Author Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of HEARTLESS, VEILED ROSE, MOONBLOOD, STARFLOWER and DRAGONWITCH. HEARTLESS and VEILED ROSE have each been honored with a Christy Award.


As with all Kathy's Blog Tours, there is a Giveaway. Good luck.

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PS. I was given this book for free for an honest review.

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