Final Poem of the Week: In Western Lands Beneath the Sun by J.R.R. Tolkien

21 June 2013


In Western Lands Beneath the Sun
By J.R.R. Tolkien, taken from his book, The Return of the King

In western lands beneath the Sun
  the flowers may rise in Spring,
the trees may bud, the waters run,
  the merry finches sing.
Or there maybe 'tis cloudless night
  and swaying beeches bear
the Elven-stars as jewels white
  amid their branching hair.

Though here at journey's end I lie
  in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
  beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
  and Stars forever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
  nor bid the Stars farewell.

Though I regret to say it, this will be the final Poem of the Week that I share on Literary Lane. Since I first began this meme back in 2011, my aspirations for this blog have shifted in several ways. At this point, I don't believe sharing a weekly poem is the proper fit. I've approached the Ecclesiastical time to uproot, and bitter though it may be, I know the time for planting is not far coming. Therefore,

"I will not say the Day is done, nor bid the Stars farewell!"

The Sun Must Set to Rise

19 June 2013


When she was just a girl
She expected the world
But it flew away from her reach
So she ran away in her sleep.
Paradise, Coldplay

"Don't set that down."
She flinched at the sound of the voice, at the shivers its cool, guarded tones sent down her spine.
"Don't set it down; you'll catch the tapestry," the voice repeated.
She glanced about her in the shadows, trying to sift a figure from all the darkness.
"You shouldn't be in here." If only her voice wouldn't shake so! She knew very well who addressed her, but he seemed so different with night hanging about him.
"I came to fetch some sort of aliment. A man grows hungry after a time, same as anyone else."
"There's food in the barn." She couldn't keep the smirk from darting over her lips, and was glad he couldn't see her face in the dark.
"Food for the likes of cows and pigs, you mean."
"Food for the likes of you, if you intend to stay here without charge." The girl's tone grew cold until it was nearly as chilly as the frost that clung to the windowpanes. "You had tea only a short while ago, and you won't get anything more until breakfast."
"Come now, be reasonable!" He was trying to be persuasive, but she heard the confidence ringing through the timbre of his voice.
"I am nothing if not reasonable." Susannah raised her candle and scrutinized the worn planes of his countenance. Little half moons, the hue of the sky after the sun has sunk below the horizon, colored the skin below his eyes. "Couldn't you sleep?"
He snatched the candle from her, making the flame jump nervously. "I have better things to do."
Though he ignored her, she followed him as he proceeded down the carpeted hall, feeling oddly like a stranger in her own home. "Where do you think you're going?"
"Are you really that daft?" The unseemly hour did little to improve his humor. "Your cook has gone to bed, has she not?"
"I expect so; it must be nearly midnight. You could not satisfy your hunger at a more sensible hour?"
He did not reply, only ventured further down the hall, forcing her to follow.
When they came to the door that opened onto the veranda, Susannah stopped, but her companion did not.
"This is the way to the kitchen."
"I'm not looking for the kitchen," was his cool reply.
Grinding her teeth in frustration, she continued on, keeping her eyes on the pair of broad shoulders before her lest she lose him in the long shadows of the night. She knew the house better than she knew her own hand, but he did not, and goodness only knew where he might wander off to were he given the opportunity. She hadn't the strength to physically stop him, so she stalked his footsteps with feline dexterity.
"It's too late to be rambling about like this."
If her companion heard her words, he didn't show it. Turning a corner with a clarity that fit strangely on a man who had been in the house only once or twice before, he left her in the corridor with no choice but to continue on. She trailed him just in time to see his shadowy figure disappear into one of the rooms.
"Hist!" But he was gone, dissolved into nothingness in the pitch black cloak the house wore in the day's earliest hours. Treading a bit more heavily than she ought in her haste, she slipped through the doorway herself and glanced about for the flash of the candle's flame.
"Ah. So you do know your own house. I had my doubts for a while back there."
She saw his face the minute the last words fell from his lips, illuminated by the small glimmer of the candle which he raised until it was at eye level. "You've found the library."
He moved the candle closer to the cracked spines of the books with a certain carelessness, as if he observed their titles and authors only out of sheer boredom. "I told you I was hungry. It's been months since I've last read a decent arrangement of words on a page."
"You never mentioned you like to read."
"'Tisn't my favorite occupation, but one must amuse himself somehow in times such as these, musn't he?"
His words echoed hollowly in Susannah's ears. "Few men would be so bold as to admit they came here for amusement, I'll grant you that."
"I would have thought you'd known me long enough to recognize that I'm not like most men." The bitterness in his tone stung her like salt in the sea's spray.
Wishing to change the topic, she asked, "Have you any particular title in mind?"
"None at the moment, but I'm not picky." He handed her the candle so she could scan the shelves herself. "Anything halfway decent will suffice."
She lit upon a thick volume with Bunyan printed on its spine. "The Pilgrim's Progress?"
He shook his head and wrinkled his nose as if the title disagreed with him. "Can't bear such dry prose. I had to read it as a boy once, and I don't intend to repeat the process."
Susannah turned back to the shelf and began again. "Plato? Virgil? Holinshed? Milton? Shakespeare?"
To each offer, the young man shook his head again, each time more decidedly. "Dash it all, girl! Have you nothing more interesting than all that? I'd sooner come across some engaging literature in the library of a monastery!"
When he had rejected nearly every title in the room, she set her stump of a candle down and fixed him with a firm eye, though he could not see it. "Fend for yourself, then. But don't burn any of the books with that light." Then she yawned and sat back in one of the room's many chairs, pulling her shawl closer about her shoulders. "Remind me again why this couldn't hold until morn?"
"My mind was not at rest. I needed something to soothe it. Does not a book fulfill that purpose?"
"Very rarely, I'm afraid." She sighed a little sigh that sounded familiar and comfortable in the old room. "There's only one I can think of at the moment, and even it will not refrain from rebuking and refining you at the same time that it soothes."
His attention was caught at long last. "I've never heard of such a book."
"Yes, you have, though you do not know it. It's full of quests and warriors, servants and kings, demons and angels, Darkness and Light. It's on the shelf over there, if you care to read it."
His eyes lit up in the soft candlelight, but they dimmed once more when he saw the book she referenced. "You lie, lass. 'Tis naught but the Holy Scriptures."
"I do not lie." The late hour was beginning to take its toll on her, but she whispered it once more before trailing off. "I do not lie."
When the sun began to peak through the windows some time later, sending its ribbons of light across the shadowy floor, it met with a strange prospect. The young girl, her curls tumbled around her face and her feet hitched up under her, lay asleep in the hard chair. The man, however, was far from weariness. When he noticed his young companion slept, Kenneth reached for the weighty volume she had recommended, glanced at a few pages, and then shut it once more. As he had told her before, he had better things to do.

Sunday Blessings

09 June 2013

ridge

They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.
As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.
For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.
Do good, O Lord, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.
As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peace shall be upon Israel.

—Psalm 125

Blessings on your Sabbath day, ladies!

Shadow Hand Cover Reveal!

08 June 2013

Today's the day, one and all — the day we get to catch a first gimpse at the cover for Anne Elisabeth Stengl's next Goldstone Wood installment: Shadow Hand!  The sixth book follows Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, and Dragonwitch (coming this summer) in the series, but as is Stengl's habit, Shadow Hand draws on lesser characters and ancient legends hinted at in her previous books. This story continues the tale of the fascinating Lady Daylily and her own fate after Moonblood's end . . .


"She Will Take Your Own Two Hands
To Save Your Ancient, Sorrowing Lands."

By her father's wish, Lady Daylily is betrothed to the Prince of Southlands. Not the prince she loves, handsome and dispossessed Lionheart, but his cousin, the awkward and foolish Prince Foxbrush. Unable to bear the future she sees as her wedding day dawns, Daylily flees into the dangerous Wilderlands, her only desire to vanish from living memory.

But Foxbrush, determined to rescue his betrothed, pursues Daylily into a new world of magic and peril, a world where vicious Faerie beasts hold sway, a world invaded by a lethal fey parasite . . . 

A world that is hauntingly familiar.

COMING SPRING 2014
Timeless Fantasy That Will Keep You Spellbound!
Anne Elisabeth's blog: www.annelisabethstengl.blogspot.com
SHADOW HAND website: www.shadowhandnovel.blogspot.com

Is this not exciting?  I've read Heartless and am currently devouring Veiled Rose with intentions on finishing the series this summer, and the upcoming release of Shadow Hand only increases my interest in the rest of the series.  Anne Elisabeth is a marvelous author, and the stories she spins are unforgettable. If this summary has piqued your interest, why not try out one of her books in the near future?  I assure you that you won't be disappointed.

In honor of this important occasion, the author has also graciously conceded to a giveaway for a Tales of Goldstone Wood mug decorated with the following banner:


If you'd like a chance to win the mug, make sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below!  The giveaway closes on June 15th. And don't forget to look out for Shadow Hand, which will be hitting shelves Spring 2014!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

03 June 2013

I'm a bit of a book snob. Some of you may know that already (I don't make an effort to veil it), but I think it needs stating all the same. When I'm choosing books to read, I rarely venture away from my little cocoon of classic literature. This isn't birthed from pure stubborness; I've tried to read modern literature on several occasions, and I generally come away unimpressed. As a rule, the writing tends to be poor, the subject matter cliche, and the plot and characters very predictable. I also shy away from new authors, no matter their genre. I feel comfortable in books that are at least a century old because I can trust them to be worth my time. Anne Elisabeth Stengl, however, defied every one of my firmly held ideas about newer authors, debut novels, and modern literature. (That shouldn't be a surprise, since she's more than well-read herself and draws her inspiration from classic fairy tales.) The minute I first caught glimpse of her books' beautiful, professional covers and read reviews that likened her allegories to Lewis, I knew I had to read them for myself.

And the rest, as the old turn of phrase goes, is history.

Heartless
By Anne Elisabeth Stengl
*Summary taken from the back of the book

Heartless (Tales of Goldstone  Wood #1)The Dragon King Seeks His Princess — Who Dares to Stop Him?

Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon marry. She dreams of a charming prince, but when her first suitor arrives, he's not what she'd hoped. Prince Aethelbald of mysterious Farthestshore has travelled a great distance to prove his love—and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be on the hunt and blazing a path of terror. 

Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald's offer—and ignores his cautions with dire consequences. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in his sights. Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.

My Thoughts: The backcover summary would have you think that Ms. Stengl's story is quite a simple and predictable one, entirely centered on one girl's romantic descisions. Such an opinion would be false. The further I delved into Heartless, the more layers I pealed back, and the more I realized that this book was something wholly different than what I had originally expected. The allegorical fantasy is rich with history and significance, and I particularly appreciated how the author would bring in allusions to pieces of ancient legends in Una's world when appropriate. The story would not have been nearly as satisfying without these references. They effectively served two purposes, since they added more color and depth to the story's setting and made me curious to learn more about the mysterious folklore only hinted at within the pages of Heartless. 

A few of the reviews I've read for this book have highlighted Una's failings, complaining that she is an annoying and shallow main character. While I can see why they would find her often selfish and foolish nature irritating, I think the readers who make claims such as these are missing one of Heartless' fundamental themes. It may have been more interesting, by modern standards, for the author to endow Una with strength and mental brilliance, but that would be a poor depiction of the sinful human condition. Una serves as a fictional representation of the Church. Like her, we in no way deserve forgiveness or salvation, nor can we ever work our way up to such a level. We are entirely dependent upon Christ's lavish grace and the gift of deliverance He freely gives. Heartless captured this eternal truth with both simplicity and depth, and for that reason I'm sure I'll be reading it again soon.

Pros: Anne Elisabeth's prose perfectly suits the subject matter. It's filled with dry humor and biting dialogue, and her description and world-building is simply breathtaking. Each of the characters is wholly dynamic, and I even found myself feeling pity for a few of the antagonists. The story progresses at a reasonable pace, the action is engaging without being extensively graphic, and the romance is sweet and pure.

And Sir Eanrin's in it. That affords little debate.

Cons: There is enough violence, though it's not excessively bloody, to keep this book from being appropriate for young children. The plot includes several battles and skirmishes with dragons, which sometimes lead to characters taking in dragon poison. On a more nit-picky level, the author doesn't give a very strong explanation for Una's instantaneous dislike of Prince Aethelbald, and her constant irritation with him seems somewhat ungrounded. The middle of the book dragged a little at times. None of these facts greatly affected my enjoyment of the story as a whole, however.

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

A Bit O' Reading For the Day:
"If a man has to ask for your trust, it's a sure sign you should not give it. Trust should be earned inherently, without any verbal demands. Trust is knowing a man's character, knowing truth, and relying on that character and truth even when the odds seem against you." —Heartless, chapter 15

Sunday Blessings

02 June 2013


Holy, holy, holy!  Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy!  Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy!  All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy!  Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love and purity.

Holy, holy, holy!  Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy!  Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

— "Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty" by Reginald Heber (lyrics) and John B. Dykes (music)

I pray you're having a beautiful and restful Lord's Day!
And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” —Isaiah 6:3
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