Prism Tour: Dragonwitch

Dragonwitch (Tales of Goldstone Wood #5)The North Star, if you follow it, will lead you north, which gets very cold during the winter. In the North Country, Leta lives a dull life expecting dull things, and Alistair leads a promising life expecting death. Neither yet has any notion of the Far World beyond their world – a world that even now is creeping into their own, and soon enough will burst into it. Then everything they expected and knew will be rearranged.

Dragonwitch is the fifth book in Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s Tales of Goldstone Wood. It may be read as a stand-alone, but it would be better to read Starflower – the immediately preceding book – first. Dragonwitch builds on Starflower to a great extent. And frankly, Dragonwitch is complicated enough in its own right. (Part of this is due to the time-bending of the Far World – an interesting and useful idea, but one that left me thinking a couple times, “What? When did that happen?”)

The book begins gradually, acquainting the readers with the characters, establishing a broad range of elements. Anne Stengl builds a world of legends – some sad, some beautiful, a few horrible, and all compelling. She gives a realness to the places and the people she creates, and as many as they are, they have definition.

I enjoyed seeing Eanrin and Imraldera again, though Eanrin seemed somewhat off to me. He had a mean streak in this book that I did not see in Starflower. Still, he had his charm and his vim, and remained an entertaining and likeable character.

As with Starflower, I was impressed by Anne Stengl’s ability to make her characters – villains and heroes alike – nuanced and sympathetic. There is hardly a character in all of Dragonwitch who is not either likeable or pitiable.

In a way, it made the book sadder. The greatest theme of Dragonwitch is redemption – redemption offered, redemption accepted, redemption rejected. The things that drew characters onto the broad way that leads to destruction, and the things that kept them there, are profound. One character reached to another, offering love and hope, only to be rejected – and there is a deep truth in this. There are always people who spurn grace.

The cost of this profundity is a pall of sadness over the novel. Some characters had a happy ending, and there was a triumph and a hope at the end more important than simple happiness. Yet Dagonwitch felt a little sad to me.

The universe of Dragonwitch is woven not only with fairy tales, but with a sense of spiritual things and spiritual truths. The prose  is tremendous – beautiful and evocative; the story twisted unexpectedly, and the characters made good – or, in some cases, at least interesting – company. Dragonwitch is a lovely book, a book worth reading.

Dragonwitch is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. To find reviews of the book, information about Anne Elisabeth Stengl, and a giveaway of the entire Tales of Goldstone Wood, go to the Book Launch.

As part of the Prism Tour, Anne Stengl has been answering questions about herself and her work. Here is my question, and her answer:

Like the Chronicles of Narnia, your series is written out of Chronological order. In what order would you recommend people to read your books?

Well, I tend to think the Tales of Goldstone Wood are best read in the order they are written. While Heartless is not the first chronologically, I wrote it first because it was the simplest story and, therefore, the best entryway into my rather complex and intricate world. It follows the most classic of fairy tale storylines—Princess, Prince, Dragon—and introduces the most important characters and themes, particularly the dragon mythology. So I think it’s the best place to start since everything builds from there, even the stories that come earlier in the timeline.

That being said, I try to write all of the stories as standalone as possible so that they can be picked up and enjoyed in any order. The only two that have to be read sequentially are Veiled Rose and Moonblood.

And, finally, an announcement from Anne Elisabeth Stengl:

I’m excited to begin hinting at the newest Goldstone Wood project . . . one that will be releasing between Dragonwitch and Shadow Hand. That’s right, dear readers! I am going to be releasing a novella this fall, a little tide-you-over piece until the next novel is ready.

I can’t  share the cover just yet, though that will be coming quite soon now.  But I can let you know what the title will be . . . .

Can you guess what this story might be about?

You heard it here first … possibly. Anyway, thanks for joining on the tour!

Rules for Reviewers

Before the end of the summer, I expect to participate in at least four blog tours. Possibly five, but just possibly.

So, with all this reviewing ahead of me, I’ve been thinking again of what makes a good review – the first principles, if you will. Here, then, are some rules for reviewers. First of all,

Tell the truth. There are people who, regardless of actual merit, give five-star reviews to the books of authors they like. There are far more disagreeable people who give one-star reviews to the books of authors they hate. And there are people who – if they dislike something, or even if they like it – cannot own up to the fact.

But telling the truth is a moral principle. It is also – less importantly – the foundation of good reviewing. Not all truthful reviews are good reviews, but all good reviews are truthful reviews. That is the nature of foundations: When they are right, it is possible that everything else will be right; when they are wrong, it is certain everything else will be wrong.

While you speak the truth, be careful that you always remember …

Authors are people, too. Feelings and all. So be kind. It is true, as Anton Ego said, that negative criticism is fun to read and to write. There is often a temptation to rant (which is easy), to be snarky (which is fun), to just slam something.

Lead us not into temptation. Oh, there are works that deserve to be slammed – works that are malignant, works that insidiously propagate falsehood, works that lead people astray. Even these are owed fairness. Be sure to acknowledge the good points and to be even and reasonable in expounding your criticism.

Books that are merely bad are also owed justice, and a dash of mercy, too. Bad art is not a sin. No one should be roasted for a mistake.

In sum, remember that authors are people, and write your reviews as if they may read them. You may be surprised at how often they do.


Even if you really do hate political thrillers, never criticize a political thriller for being a political thriller. It’s not just. It’s not even logical.

There’s an important line between subjective and objective criticism. To say that the plot is illogical is an objective criticism. To say it had too much romance is a subjective criticism; all that really means is that it had more romance than you liked.

Subjective criticism is important in a review; it helps the reader know whether the book in question is something he would like. The point is not that you shouldn’t include subjective criticism – you should – but that you should know it for what it is. Any criticism that has to do with personal taste should be very measured indeed.

So distinguish between what is subjective and what is objective, and weigh your words accordingly.

Though I could go on, here is where I end – with three rules for reviewers.