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Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

This is the first book I have read by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, but I have discovered that it is in a series of stories called Tales of Goldstone Wood. There are three others in the series, and another to come later this year. Fortunately, Starflower can be read out of sequence as it takes place in a different time to the previous stories. It is set long before Stengl's first novel, Heartless, but in the same magical and eventful realm.

I was quite enchanted by it. It's a fairy tale for grown ups, full of dragons and faeries, quests full of peril and self-discovery. In Starflower, the former dragon Hri Sora attempts to exact some revenge for her horrible fate. Stripped of her full dragon-ness, she must suffer in the smoky ruins of her city. Her audacious plan to kidnap the Faerie Queen's sister, the most adored Lady Gleamdren, and keep her hostage is a terrible affront to the kingdom. Gleamdren has two champions - Eanrin and Glomar -  ready to do battle on her behalf. They are as different as can be in looks and temperament, but they must learn to respect each other just a little if they are to succeed.

The bewildered and terrified mortal girl Eanrin stumbles across seems to need rescuing too. Whether Eanrin is up to the task of keeping her safe, and from what, as well as coming to Gleamdren's rescue is not at all certain. Starflower has dark secrets of her own to hide. As the histories of mortals and dragons tangle and collide terrible truths are revealed.

I found Starflower to be a thoroughly satisfying fantasy, full of gorgeous otherness, shimmering creatures and monstrous wrongs to be righted. It definitely fulfilled my sometime yearning for tales of good and evil, fortitude and courage. The other Goldstone Wood novels are now firmly on my wish-list.

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