Book Review: "Heartless" by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon be married. She dreams of a handsome and charming prince, but when the first suitor arrives, she finds him stodgy and boring. Prince Aethelbald from the mysterious land of Farthestshore has traveled far to prove his love--and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be approaching Parumvir.

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

Let me first start off this review by saying that I do not normally read fantasy at all. I just cannot get into the story. And I found myself having that problem with this book. Even though the characters were very intriguing and the story line more interesting than most fantasy books I have attempted, I just found myself not wanting to read the book. I would only read 2-3 chapters at a time before I put it down and read something else. In fact, there would be days where I completely ignored it in favor for other books. Then one day, I decided it was now or never that I sit down and read this book in one sitting. And I found myself really enjoying the story.

While all the traditional elements of a fantasy novel are here (mythical worlds, dragons, names I cannot pronounce), Stengl manages to create Una into a character I could very much relate to. Also the entire world didn't seem so distant like other fantasy worlds seem to be. That is the reason why I never can get into the story, because I don't understand their world.
The story started off a little slow for me but once Una falls in love with Leonard, I felt the story really picked up from there. That was the point where I couldn't stop reading and it just kept building up from there. There are dragons, people in disguise, jilted lovers, daring rescues - it just doesn't get any better than this. Seriously, the writing was top notch with lots of drama, plenty of action scenes and a love story.

Being as this is from a Christian publisher, I can sort of see some sort of allegory references in here. But to be honest, they weren't very clear to me and all I read was just a GOOD story. Therefore, this is a book I can recommend to any YA fantasy reader, whether they read Christian or general market books exclusively.

I'm not going to lie. While I ended up really liking this book, I am going to pace myself before reading the next book in the series. If it's about any of the characters in this book, especially Una and Aethelbald, then I will be more inclined to pick it up. However, if it's about new characters or different parts of the world, I might hold off. Stengl's writing is absolutely lovely but I'm still dipping my toes barely into the genre and am working my way in very slowly. If you are YA fantasy fan, you will LOVE this book. And even if you're not, you should still try it. It might just be your next favorite read.

Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl is published by Bethany House (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher


  1. Hmm, what an interesting cover! I am not into fantasy, either, but there are times when I get drawn into the excitement about it and think I'll like something so I start it and then just realize, again, that I'm not a fan of fantasy, lol. This was a fair and balanced review, though!


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