Book Review: Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

09 July 2013

This post comes a bit behind schedule, since I finished reading Veiled Rose last month, Moonblood a week or so ago, and am now looking forward to diving into Starflower. As fate would have it, I was out of town the first week after I finished and have had posts lined up and ready to publish every week since. It's a pity, really, because I do like to publish reviews less than a week after I finish the book, when all the thoughts and emotions are still fresh in my memory. But what can you do?

Veiled Rose
By Anne Elisabeth Stengl
*Summary taken from the book's back cover

A Monster Prowls the Mountains of Southlands

Rose Red trusts no one with her secret. She hides in the forest, her face veiled in rages, shunning the company of all save her old father and her nanny goat. Her life is bleak and lonely.

Until she meets a privileged young man sent to spend his summer in the mountains. Headstrong young Leo startles everyone by befriending Rose Red, and together they begin searching for the monster rumored to be stalking these lands.

But the hunt, which began as a game, holds greater risk than either imagines. Soon both are forced to test their trust in each other as a far more terrifying scourge puts their entire land at risk.

My Thoughts: One factor that heightened Veiled Rose in my mind was the marked improvement in its author's writing, an improvement only experience can give. Though I liked Heartless very much, this second Goldstone Wood installment was a bit deeper, a bit more intense, and it ventured further into the realm of Faerie of which we've only heard careful whispers thus far. The stakes were also significantly higher in this book, which is another one of the reason I preferred the plot of Veiled Rose to that of Heartless. I'd always had a passing fondness for Leonard the jester of Heartless infamy, and in Veiled Rose we get to read about him from childhood through youth and on into a period of adulthood (which has less to do with Leo's maturity and more to do with his age). Like any young lad, Leo cherishes a secret dream of venturing forth and slaying the rumored monster that haunts the woods outside his summer home, Hill House. He desires to win honor and glory for himself . . . but he ends up discovering something much more precious, though he does not recognize its value until much later.

One cannot help but love Leo. He's so foolhardy and impatient in the beginning of the book, and then so bitter and lost towards the end that you cannot help wanting to direct him in the right course of action. He passes the whole book trying to earn glory for his name, as if to prove that he is worth something more after all. But no matter how many times he attempts to claw after human success, he never quite reaches it. Those who have read Heartless already know the terrible choice Leo makes in the face of danger. It even gives the reader a taste of the guilt and regret he bears afterward. Veiled Rose, however, explains why such a choice was justified (in Leo's eyes, at least). With a sense of both his childhood past and the adulthood set before him, we catch a much deeper glimpse of his heart. The former book made him out to be a coward (which he is, in many respects), and though we wish he could change his decision, we berate him for being so weak as to make it in the first place. This second book, though not apologizing for his behavior, showed us why he acted the way he did, which makes his anguish at both books' end all the harder to bear.

And then there's Rose Red. When others fail, she's there to support them. When some back down, she takes their place. Though humble and small, she plays a large part as both a protector and guider in the book named after her. The dark journey she makes in the book's second half was an undertaking both risky and courageous. With little thought for herself, she repeatedly puts her own life on the line. None is more faithful than she. Her only fault is that she refuses to ask for help in any of these cases. Rosie won't put her faith in what she can't see, and eventually that begins to work to her detriment . . .

Pros: The character development in Veiled Rose was excellent. With the advent of each new character, my original impression was forced to shift several times before it could settle into a comfortable idea of his or her personality and motives. Lady Daylily of Middlecrescent, betrothed of Prince Lionheart, was arguably the most difficult character to peg. Her persuasions and feelings, which seem immediately obvious the first time we meet her, show themselves  in their true colors eventually and resemble nothing which you would rightly expect.

Cons: The theology was my only qualm, which sometimes presented the Christ-like character as being dependent on the consent of his children in order to save them. This rubbed me the wrong way a bit, but did not significantly alter my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I recommend this book for ages 13+

A Bit O' Reading For the Day:
"Lionheart is suspended in blackness, enormous blackness without floor, ceiling, or walls. Perhaps he is falling; he cannot say. The weight of the choice pressures him from all sides while simultaneously tearing him in two. He knows the moment of decision has come. But he hates it. As though he must kill a piece of himself, sacrifice one man that the other might live. In the end, there is only one choice he can make." — Veiled Rose

6 epistles:

  1. Lovely review! So very helpful. =] I may have to add this series to my reading list... Thanks for posting!

    Blessings,
    Sarah

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  2. As they say in the vernacular: "Yup!" I actually read this one before Heartless (you probably already knew that) and so wasn't able to appreciate fully the development between book one and book two, but on all other points I think we see pretty much eye to eye. Again, perhaps because I read Veiled Rose first, I liked Lionheart. Of course I wanted occasionally to beat him over the head, or perhaps to give him a swirlie, but I don't hate him as some readers do.

    And that ending! Did you cry? Or did you at least get a lump in your throat? I did, which makes it, for me, a Dashed Good Book.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I did know that, and for a while I considered doing the same myself, but then I decided to just go ahead and read them in the traditional order. I enjoyed Heartless, but Veiled Rose definitely gave me a better sense of Anne Elisabeth's abilities as a wordcrafter, for all the reasons I listed in my review. As for Lionheart, I think it was his faults that endeared me to him (although I still maintain he could have benefited from several slates broken over his head à la Anne Shirley). He's so utterly human and lost — and he knows it — and he keeps trying to pull himself out of the pit on his own strength, but he fails no matter what. In many ways, he reminds me of myself when I forget to draw my strength and sustenance from the Lord. He's a very honest character — no straw man here!

      Goodness gracious, of course I did! A lump, tears, the whole nine yards, as they say. It was heartbreaking, and the beginning of the next book wasn't much more encouraging. Anne Elisabeth certainly enjoys wringing her readers' hearts, though not quite so much as Jenny, I'd venture. ;) Have you read Moonblood, by the way?

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    2. I have read Moonblood! And its ending had me choking up, too. I don't think I was as invested in it as in Veiled Rose, which continues to be my favorite (with Starflower a close second), but it was good nonetheless. My comparatively lukewarm reception may have been due to the time I read it; I know I was at loose ends last June when I picked it up, and my reading was not very steady.

      I still need to get Dragonwitch: I missed jumping on the review-bandwagon. But that's all right. Buy a copy and support an author, and all that jazz!

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  3. I think, more than even Heartless Veiled Rose has piqued my interest. I want to read Anne Elisabeth Stengl' series a lot. Very much.

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