“In the divine, we find the satisfaction of contradictions. We find the wholeness of broken things and belief in the impossible.” Eanrin, the Chief Poet of Rubidos (who sometimes happens to be a cat).
Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl is a tale of a formidable realm on the verge of crowning its first king. The House of Geheris is the seat of power for Earl Ferox. His able administration over the land has given him favor with neighboring earls of the North Country. They are sure to pledge their allegiance to House of Geheris and become one, unified kingdom.
The problem is, the aging and ill Ferox has no heir. It’s been arranged for his nephew Alistair to be groomed for the position of future earl . . . and, presumably, king. But, as fairytales must go, there is nothing straightforward about Alistair’s destiny. Between studies that he loathes, a bride-to-be who is a virtual stranger, and a reoccurring nightmare that plunders his sleep, the young man is a wreck. All this before anything of importance actually happens to Alistair, or for that matter, in the story. One thing that stands out: he is a broken and despondent person.
This tale of prophecy and predicaments, nursery rhymes and revelations, goblins and faeries, is really three tales that weave together into one reality. The different layers were a bit hard to piece together at first, but I believe that was intentional. Watching the threads intertwine became a delight. The author's transcendent Christian worldview glowed within each stratum, yet never glared.
Those of us that love Christ and fantasy have had limited reading material until the last few years (one reason I’ve taken to writing in this genre myself). The stalwarts of allegory, Lewis and Tolkien, have played the game with a sparse team for quite a seventh-inning stretch. It's great to see Christian publishers, like Bethany House, scouting some serious talent.
Dragonwitch is a heavy hitter on this allegorical team. The beauty of the author’s prose, the depths of truth that were portrayed, and the stellar character development, all made for one pleasurable read. I found myself digging for a pen to underline poignant reminders of the reality that exists, even in fairytales.
Especially in fairytales.
With adept skill, Stengl offers readers an adventure that encompasses legend, the supernatural, and life within the walls of palace and pagan lands. Such depth in storytelling makes a brief review a challenge. I cannot offer a nutshell synopsis of the highlights, for there were too many.
Instead, I’ll leave you with a recommendation to get Dragonwitch for yourself (as an aside, I do not care for the title. Seems a bit melodramatic for such a savvy tale. And I wish two of the main characters had not had such similar names. I struggled to keep them straight throughout). Beyond that, I found this book a page-turner and a solid motivator for my own writing.
I will also leave you with another quote from my favorite character, Eanrin, the Chief Poet of Rudiobus:
“Creature of dust, it’s the truth that counts! And you’ll rarely find more truth than in Faerie tales.”
**I was provided with a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.