I first heard about the Tales of Goldstone Wood while with my cousins eight years ago. Brittany, my eldest cousin, showed me a beautiful book she had picked up for just a few dollars at a little bookstore. It had one of the loveliest covers I had ever seen. It was titled Heartless, and it was written by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.
It is the first book in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series, and it is my childhood. (Warning: this is a major nostalgic fangirl post with so many references that many won’t understand…. but I really don’t care. #sorrynotsoryy)
I’ve always enjoyed fantasy, living off of The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia for as long as I can remember, but The Tales of Goldstone Wood took that love to a new level.
I read Heartless three times before Veiled Rose was released (Heartless was published in 2010, and Veiled Rose came out in 2011…). I devoured Veiled Rose and then Moonblood, but whatever expectations I had for the series could not prepare me for what came next. Starflower and Dragonwitch completely outdid everything that had come before them.
The books just. kept. getting. better.
Goddess Tithe, the first novella, was released on the heels of Dragonwitch, taking breath away yet again. When the opportunity arose, I signed up for the cover reveal for Shadow Hand, completely delighted that I could participate.
Bits and pieces about Golden Daughter were dropped, then came the cover and the buzz about how long it was (584 packed pages). Then Draven’s Light, a huge “novella” fitting the hugeness of the series, was released. I cried while reading it. Repeatedly.
The depth and richness of everything in the Tales of Goldstone Wood is incomparable. There are many excellent modern fantasy novels, but the Tales of Goldstone Wood series towers over all of them. There are so many good fantasy stories out there, but The Tales of Goldstone Wood dominates on every level.
So much can be said about the world(s) captured in the series–the cultures and kingdoms and histories. The lordly sun and the lady moon. The glory and purity of the starry sky. The Faerie kings and queens with their three lives. The halls of the Merry People and the throne room of the goblin queen. Rivers and all their craftiness. The Dragon and his kiss. The Knights of Farthest Shore and the Lumil Eliasul. Much can also be said about the stories with all their complexity and twists and the threads that trace through them—the wild fun and the wild danger.
But the world would be only interesting and the stories would be only adventures if it weren’t for the characters. The characters are what make these books more than just stories. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the people that leaped off the page and commanded attention and affection, each one unique and so so so so real.
I never much cared for the Chronicler or Leta—probably because I’m very partial to Alistair and didn’t like that they didn’t see or appreciate his greatness—but the Brothers Ashiun stole my heart, their story devastating me every time I read it. Somehow, I came to adore even the Flame at Night with all her fire, hatreds, lies, and brokenness.
Not many people loved Una, but she was dear to me even with all her selfish whining. Felix, that dastardly little fiend of brother, has never stopped making me laugh, and watching Leo grow from the boy-prince into manhood with much trial and error is still one of my favorite things.
I wasn’t a fan of Daylily and Foxbrush, but that’s probably because I’m very, very partial to Leo, Rose Red, and Una (it’s like a love pentagon).
Draven’s courage and Ita’s resolve will never not give me tears and chills. I haven’t met Sairu yet, but from what I’ve heard, I think I’ll like her. The Panther Master broke my heart, and I sorely miss Sun Eagle.
Imraldera, the sweet, brave Starflower; oh, how she taught me compassion. And words cannot express the place Eanrin has in my heart, the most cat-ish poet to ever grace the page, so fierce and noble and unexpected in every way.
For whatever reason, I stopped reading the Tales of Goldstone Wood a few years ago, but then Anne Elisabeth Stengl announced that she won’t be writing any more of them.
So I went back to my shelf and stared at the books, feeling strangely, deeply sad. Heartless, Starflower, and Dragonwitch are on my special Favorites of All Time shelf. Golden Daughter sits on my To Be Read shelves. The others are gathered together on their own shelf, and I decided it’s time to revisit all the beloved places and reacquaint myself with all the beloved people.
This time, I’m reading them in chronological order—the order they take place, not the order they were published. Starflower has already reclaimed its place in my heart, and I’m nearly finished with Dragonwitch, dying over Eanrin, Imraldera, Hri Sora, Etanun, Mouse, and Alistair all over again.
I know not everyone who reads Penprints will “get” this post, but it’s been a long time coming. The Tales of Goldstone Wood are a prime example of the power and beauty of stories. They are pure, beautiful, and everything stories should be.
It’s strange how they only get better the more I read them, how sad and happy they make me at the same time, how much I’ve learned from them about people and life and myself and God, how deeply they delight and compel at the same time.
What stories made up your childhood? Have you read any Tales of Goldstone Wood? Do you have a favorite?
P.S. – I may not post next week. We’ll see. If I do, should I post about hope when hope is gone or the importance of growing up.
P.P.S. – I realize that as a love letter, this should probably have been addressed to the series instead of just talking about the series, but I thought talking to a stack of books might be a little odd. So I figured I had better just talk about them as if they were real since that’s less weird. ;)