Here's a description of the book from Bethany House:
"The Black Dogs Are on the Hunt, But Who Is Their Prey?
When a cursed dragon-witch kidnaps fairest Lady Gleamdren, the Bard Eanrin sets boldly forth on a rescue mission... and a race against his rival for Gleamdren's favor. Intent upon his quest, the last thing the immortal Faerie needs is to become mixed up with the troubles of an insignificant mortal.
But when he stumbles upon a maiden trapped in an enchanted sleep, he cannot leave her alone in the dangerous Wood Between. One waking kiss later, Eanrin suddenly finds his story entangled with that of young Starflower. A strange link exists between this mortal girl and the dragon-witch. Will Starflower prove the key to Lady Gleamdren's rescue? Or will the dark power from which she flees destroy both her and her rescuer?"
With daring descriptions and exquisite emotion, Stengl continues to fascinate and inspire with her fourth installment in the "Tales of Goldstone Woods" series. Earlier this year, Moonblood (the third installment) moved me to tears and enchanted me, and it became my favorite of the series. But then Starflower came along with its powerful themes, epic quests, and unique look at familiar characters... It took a little bit of time for me to become completely enthralled, but once I was in, this book blossomed into my new favorite. And yes, I cried again!
The "Tales of Goldstone Woods" is very intriguing in its cyclic nature. It's very eternity-oriented, what with the Wood Between and the various faerie realms that aren't governed by time (at least, not how mortals would define it). It all begins with the story of Una and Aethelbald in Heartless. Then one of the secondary characters gets a chance to share his back story and his perspective of the events of Heartless in Veiled Rose. The events of Veiled Rose continue in Moonblood. But Starflower takes a very different turn by going back about 1,600 years in order to tell the tale of Eanrin and Starflower.
And yet, the jumping back and forth in time isn't as complicated as it sounds. (The non-linear approach reminds me a lot of C.S. Lewis' concept of the "Unbounded Now" - the idea that God is not bound by time, but rather everything is as "now" to Him.) While the perspective changes in each story from character to character, the focus - the overarching theme - does not. Each story is beautifully and uniquely crafted, and each story explores different facets of faith, but the message of love is wonderfully, marvelously the same.
All that to say, I highly, highly recommend that you read all of the books in this series. I think it is best enjoyed in order, but even if it isn't read in order, I think all of the books have so much to offer combined. Starflower was all the more meaningful to me because I had already "met" Eanrin and Starflower, and because I wanted to know what past events brought them to such a mysterious and hidden-emotions-filled future.
Coming back to this particular installment, I fell in love with the adventure. Stengl takes her readers through such exotic and evocative fantasy realms! The imagery is lovely and clever, and the romantic undertones, hints of humor, and intense chase scenes all come together to make this book such an ultimately engaging read. And the "Hound of Heaven" theme... Wow! This genre might not be every reader's cup of tea, but I admire Stengl's God-given talent of weaving such emotive literature, and I was deeply impacted by the questions and truths this story stirred in my heart.
I long for more of Eanrin and Starflower's story, and I eagerly await the release of Dragonwitch. Stengl's stories just keep getting better and better!
*With thanks to the author and Bethany House for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*
The Hound of Heaven
In an author's note at the back of the book, Stengl talks about how "The Hound of Heaven" - a poem by Francis Thompson - inspired one of the main themes of the book. I highly, highly recommend reading the poem in its entirety HERE. It's heart-breaking, convicting, and utterly beautiful.