Review: Goddess Tithe

There is one thing Munny is determined to do, and that is to return to his mother with the white peonies. No storm, no danger in the ocean shall stand in his way.

Except, maybe, Risafeth, the vengeful goddess who demands her blood tithe. Her wrath is roused against Munny and all the crew of the Kulap Kanya by Leonard the Clown, who stowed away and has not drowned for it.

Goddess Tithe is a novella written by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, taking place within the larger scope of the Tales of Goldstone Wood. The novella is 120 pages and illustrated; the illustrations are full-page, black and white, and – by my judgment – quite well-done.

I stumbled across Leonard while reading Heartless; I have not read Veiled Rose, the larger story that contains Leonard’s quest. I enjoyed Goddess Tithe just the same. This is not really Leonard’s story, and the question of the book is not what he will do, but what others will do with him.

The heart of the story is with Munny, with other characters adding flavor and the captain adding mystery. As in other Anne Stengl stories I have read, the characters are full of life, thrumming with their own purposes and emotions and traits. They draw you along into their stories – sometimes with sympathy, sometimes with interest.

Anne Stengl beautifully captures Faerie – the wonder, the beauty, the terror. The things she imagines and brings to written life are captivating. The dangers she brings for her characters out of Faerie are unearthly, effectively menacing and unnatural. There is a way besides violence to build fear and suspense, and Stengl finds it.

Goddess Tithe is a short work, within the breadth of a larger one, which may account for my one complaint against it. I would have liked to learn more about the captain, though I understand why I didn’t. I understand, too, why the story of Munny and his mother was ultimately unfinished. But I think I could at least have learned what Munny’s true name is, especially with so many stories only hinted at.

Goddess Tithe is a lovely novella – beautifully written, full of heart, with the wonder and terror of Faerie. I recommend it, and not only to readers of the Tales of Goldstone Woods.

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