Fantasy Friday – Goddess Tithe

goddesstithecoverOne of the best Christian speculative writers, in my opinion, is Anne Elisabeth (don’t call her Anne or Ann 😉 ) Stengl. As it happens, she is also the winner of last year’s Clive Stables Award with her novel Snowflower. She has since released Dragonwitch and most recently, Goddess Tithe, her self-published, illustrated novella.

If you’ve not had occasion to read any of Anne Elisabeth’s works, Goddess Tithe might be the perfect introduction. While the world and characters have some connection to the rich story world of the series Tales of Goldstone Wood, in which all Anne Elisabeth’s other novels are set, this small story can easily stand alone.

The Story. Munny, a poor boy who wants to give his sick mother the gift of life by freeing her from the responsibility of caring for him, goes to sea. As a lowly cabin boy, young and inexperienced, he’s tormented by those older and stronger than he. But an old sailor takes him under his wings and goes about teaching him all he knows about such things as tying knots and why he should always do what their captain says.

The lives of all the sailors on the Kulap Kanya are put in jeopardy, however, when they discover a stowaway on board . . . and when their revered captain does not at once throw him overboard as the tithe justly due the goddess Risafeth who rules the sea. Rather, he puts the stowaway under Munny’s care and protection. And then the goddess comes to claim her tithe.

Strengths. Anne Elisabeth has created an incredible world, less obvious in this short novella, which makes this story the perfect entry point for someone wondering what kind of writer and stories they’ve been missing. The character’s the thing, you might say. Munny is wonderfully drawn (with words and with . . pencil, or whatever the media Anne Elisabeth used for her illustrations). He is sympathetic, well motivated, heroic, not free of prejudice, but able to grow and develop. He shows greater strength because of his belief in his captain, prompted by his aging mentor.

Best of all is the end when . . . heheh–you didn’t really think I was going to tell, did you?

Anne Elisabeth masterfully tells the story using the old time fairytale-style point of view–the omniscient voice. It’s so well done, and so necessary to this story, that no intimacy with the protagonist is lost.

The story is short and not complicated, but it packs a punch as all of the Tales of Goldstone Wood do. This is not allegory, not even symbolism in the normal sense of the word, and there is no preaching. Rather, the Christian theme becomes apparent as the characters live out what comes naturally to them as Anne Elisabeth has depicted them. She’s masterful at showing Christianity.

Weakness. I had one point of contention with this story. I thought Munny’s motivation for leaving home was weak. It’s the one place where I didn’t think he came across as smart. He left hoping something would happen, but the fact is, if it didn’t happen, he would have made the situation he was trying to improve so very much worse. I thought it too obvious even for a poor uneducated peasant boy to miss, and thought he should never have left home without some assurance that what he wanted would in fact result from his decision.

Recommendation. For all the macho male readers who have stayed away from the Tales of Goldstone Wood because they thought they were, you know, fairytales, and romance (could there be a worse combination for a macho male reader?), well, here’s the chance to find out for yourselves what all the buzz is about. Goddess Tithe is a nearly all male cast of characters, despite the title. Munny’s mother does make an appearance, but the goddess is like no other goddess you’ve read about.

This is a wonderful story, short, mildly fantastic, more about character than fast action. In short this book is for any reader who likes quality literature.

I’m happy to say that at the writing of this post, the Kindle edition of Goddess Tithe is on sale for $.99. What a great buy!

Also watch for Anne Elisabeth’s next novel, Shadow Hand, which releases March 4 in both print and e-book versions.

Published in: on February 7, 2014 at 6:02 pm  Comments Off on Fantasy Friday – Goddess Tithe  
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CSFF Blog Tour – Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Day 1

Tales of Goldstone Wood
This month, as you visit the sites of those involved in the CSFF Blog Tour, you might find more than one person reviewing a different book than the one we’re featuring or linking to a past review instead of posting one hot off the presses. You might also notice that there aren’t as many participants as usual. There’s a good reason for this (besides December busy-ness).

The Christian Fiction Blog Alliance (CFBA), another blog tour group, beat CSFF to the punch and already featured Starflower, fourth in the young adult fairytale series, Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. Hence, several of our usual participants, having previously reviewed and/or discussed this book, chose not to join in this time. Others, however, chose to post during our tour too because they wanted to give Starflower a wide exposure, but their posts might be a little different.

No matter. Blog tours are fun. They give blog visitors a chance to learn, from a variety of people, about a new author, book, and series.

In this case, Anne Elisabeth Stengl is hardly new to A Christian Worldview of Fiction. I featured her in my occasional “introduce the fantasy author” series and more recently participated (however tardily) in a promotion for the book following Starflower, Dragonwitch, which revealed that cover.

Nevertheless, Starflower is the first of her books that CSFF has featured, and I’m happy a greater audience will learn of her work.

For one thing, Anne Elisabeth is an excellent writer. She’s put time into learning how to write fiction, and it shows. The Christian publishing industry has noticed, as well, awarding her back-to-back Christy Awards.

She’s an artist by nature, and that shows, too. Plus she’s tapping into interest in a kind of fantasy–fairytales–that is quite popular in our culture at large.

I’m happy to see her publisher (Bethany House) stepping into the arena of fantasy, as I noted in an earlier post this year.

In short, there’s lots to be excited about in this tour. To get things started, Gillian Adams is hosting a give-away:

Since I enjoyed this book so much, I’d like to offer you a chance to do the same, so I’m hosting a giveaway of a copy of Starflower.

Your name can go into the proverbial hat simply by leaving a comment at Gillian’s site, or by following her blog or by following Anne Elisabeth’s blog. Your name will be entered each time you participate in one way or another so the more you interact, the greater your chance of winning a free copy of Starflower.

One more to whet your appetite for this tour–best quote so far:

if you love Narnia; if you miss Middle Earth; if you enjoyed such stories as Alice in Wonderland, then you MUST read this book. Anne Elisabeth Stengl has created a setting in which rivers and trees come to life; a world in which animals talk and faeries can take on human or animal form. I haven’t encountered such a rich environment since I went back and rediscovered George MacDonald’s fantasy worlds.
Bruce Hennigan

Check out what the others are saying. As always, a check mark links you directly to a CSFF article.

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