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Moonblood

by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Series: Tales of Goldstone Wood #3
373 pages, Fantasy
Reviewed by Jeanne

A rich fairytale, interwoven with allegory and legend.

Plot

As the son of the Eldest of Southlands, the burden of caring for the Dragon-ravaged kingdom will soon fall to Lionheart. But after having failed to fight the Dragon as he promised, he has no one's trust, least of all his own. No one's trust, that is, but Rose Red's. And when Lionheart is faced with the anger of his people and their cry that his most faithful friend is a demon, he banishes her. Now, in a last ditch effort to atone for his own sins, Lionheart strikes out on a quest through the sinister Goldstone Wood to find her again.

The Dragon Lord is dead; his children sleep. But the Night of Moonblood is fast approaching, and if Lionheart cannot save Rose Red in time, she will die and the dragons will be awakened once more.

Morality

All the characters but the Prince of Farthestshore are presented in human terms, whether they are human or not, and all struggle with temptation and sin. Lionheart's whole life now revolves around proving and redeeming himself, in his own eyes as much as in those of the world. Bard Eanrin can be quite snobbish at times - but then, he is a cat.

Spiritual Content

Allegory is woven through each of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, and "Moonblood" is no different. The Prince of Farthestshore, a Christ-like character, and the Wood Thrush, who most nearly represents the Holy Spirit, both appear at times. Much of the theme of this story deals with the difference between regret and repentance, as played out in the lives of several characters. As in both "Heartless" and "Veiled Rose," grace and forgiveness are richly portrayed.

The "landscape" of the Tales of Goldstone Wood is made up of three overlapping worlds: the Near, the Far, and the Wood Between. In the two latter regions, Faerie magic and Faerie rules are prevalent: Time and Space are insignificant things.

"Moonblood," naturally, has a good deal of fantastical characters. Several are shape-shifters, and at one point Lionheart meets a goblin merchant who sells Faerie wares. King Iubdan and Queen Bebo, characters of Irish legend, appear. A fallen unicorn plays a major role in the story and the dragons also appear, as do Death-in-Life and Life-in-Death (though the latter are not such key players as they were in the previous books). Vahe, king of the goblins and chief villain of "Moonblood," weaves many enchantments.

Violence

Moonblood is a night of violence, when the Moon turns red in remembrance of the night her children fell to the call of Death-in-Life. The Dragon's throne, dark and terrifying, is seen several times and the plot revolves around a sacrifice taking place on it.

There are more moments of actual violence in "Moonblood" than in the other novels in the series. One character suffers from residual dragon venom in his veins; another character is a dragon and his agonies are described. At one point Lionheart and Eanrin have to face and fight a shape-shifting Tiger. A number of characters are stabbed, some by the unicorn. A fight between two characters takes place near the end; there is also a battle, but is not the main focus of its scene.

Drug and Alcohol Content

None.

Sexual Content

None.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

"Dragon" curses are once again used - "dragon's teeth," "dragon-eaten," etc. Beana, Rose Red's guardian, informs her that she ought not use such words; she should say "hen's teeth" instead. People swear by Iubdan's beard (awkward when one is actually in his presence), the Flowing Gold, and by Starflower, the Silent Lady.

Conclusion

As "Veiled Rose" partially overlaps "Heartless," so the early events of "Moonblood" overlap other events in "Veiled Rose." The tales weave together, hinting at other stories to come as the reader is swept along on Lionheart's quest for atonement. It is often dark, more like the fairytales of ancient legend than the whimsical stories which our minds go to now, but there is always an undercurrent of triumphant hope. I eagerly await the release of book four, "Starflower," and the continuation of the Tales of Goldstone Wood.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 5
Written for Age: 13+

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