Heartless / by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Tales of Goldstone Wood, 1)
MS (HS) Rating: 4 Christy award – First novel, 2011.
In her debut novel, Anne Elisabeth Stengl spins an interesting twist on a fairy tale with a spiritual allegory to the delight of her readers.
Princess Una of Parumvir dreams of marrying a charming prince, but things don’t quite work out the way she imagines. Una thinks Prince Aethelbald is boring and unromantic. He travels from the land of Farthestshore and brings warnings of a dragon rumored to be approaching Parumvir. When she rejects his offer, he tells her that he will return a later date. She ignores his warnings of danger, and dire consequences occur. Prince Leonard, a more charming prince, arrives in the role of a Fool. He befriends her, and Una is smitten. He departs to his own country, saying he will be back but he does not plan to return. Having given her heart away, she is easy prey to the Dragon King. Aethelbald returns to save the day, risking everything to win her back.
Heartless is a spiritual allegory with Prince Aethelbald playing a Christ-like, redeemer image. More plot-driven than character-driven, there are unexpected twists that are delightful, but there are also some parts about two-thirds of the way that get bogged down a bit. The Twelve Year Market that doesn’t necessarily appear every twelve years and sells only fairy goods is an imaginative addition.
Like true fairy tales, this book is meant to show a moral or lesson: giving your heart away unwisely results in consequences. There are no direct spiritual references. Despite some major bumps in the road, there is a happy ending to this story.
Recommended for middle and high school libraries, as well as teen collections in public libraries.
— reprinted with permission, Christian Library Journal, December 2010.