Monday, July 19, 2010

A Princess, A Prince and A Dragon

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

By Anne Elisabeth Stengl

I’ve been disappointed by the fantasy books I’ve reviewed for Pix-N-Pens. None have measured up to my favorite secular authors, but Heartless makes up for all the others. At first, it didn’t look like much of a story and it didn’t seem very original. In the kingdom of Parumvir, Princess Una comes of age and suitors visit the palace to ask for her hand in marriage. She gets to choose among them and she chooses badly. Neither she nor the reader anticipates the consequences of her decision. Meanwhile, there are rumors of a dragon causing mayhem wherever he goes. By this point, I was hooked.

I am not going to spoil it for you, but I will tell you that I was so wrapped up in the events of the story, that I almost missed the deep themes. It occurred to me toward the end that this might be an allegory. The Christian themes are all there – love, faith, hope, grace and sacrifice. But the allegory, if that’s what it is, is subtle. The parallels are not as clear as in some Christian fiction. That is a good thing. It provided some distance that let me enjoy the story while I read it, and ponder the meaning afterward.

The publicity for the book mentions Tolkien. That’s quite a claim to make and I don’t quite see it. The style is reminiscent of Victorian fairytales and Heartless does not have the breadth and depth of The Lord of the Rings. But the story is so well told and the themes are integrated so well, that I would not hesitate to put it on my shelf next to Tolkien.

If you like fantasy at all, or even if you just have fond memories of your childhood fairy tales, you won’t want to miss this book. I highly recommend it.

Pros: Fascinating tale of kingdoms, princesses, fairies, dragons and romance with a gripping resolution to an old problem.

Cons: The style is a little distant and you might take a while to get used to it.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Bethany House (July 1, 2010)


Anne Elisabeth Stengl


Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she enjoys her profession as an art teacher, giving private lessons from her personal studio, and teaching group classes at the Apex Learning Center. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. Heartless is her debut novel.


Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon be married. She dreams of a handsome and charming prince, but when the first suitor arrives, she finds him stodgy and boring. Prince Aethelbald from the mysterious land of Farthestshore has traveled far to prove his love--and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be approaching Parumvir.

Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald's offer--and ignores his warnings. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir, and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in grave danger. When Una makes the wrong choice, catastrophe ensues for the princess and her family, and love, courage, and trust are needed when darkness engulfs the kingdom.

Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.

There are some delightful things and scenes: the Twelve-Year Market that appears in its own good time and sells fairy goods; a clever blind cat who is invariably underfoot and has, of course, a secret!

To read the first chapter of Heartless, click HERE.

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