Starflower (Tales of Goldstone Wood #4) by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
YA fantasy*Paperback & e-book, 400 pages
Published November 1st 2012 by Bethany House
When a cursed dragon-witch kidnaps the lovely Lady Gleamdren, Eanrin sets boldly forth on a rescue mission...and a race against his rival for Gleamdren's favor. Intent upon his quest, the last thing the immortal Faerie needs is to become mixed up with the troubles of an insignificant mortal.
But when he stumbles upon a maiden trapped in an enchanted sleep, he cannot leave her alone in the dangerous Wood Between. One waking kiss later, Eanrin suddenly finds his story entangled with that of young Starflower. A strange link exists between this mortal girl and the dragon-witch. Will Starflower prove the key to Lady Gleamdren's rescue? Or will the dark power from which she flees destroy both her and her rescuer?
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Bard Eanrin, what ten qualities make up your perfect mate?
Well, Reader Girls, a perfect mate for me will have to be a remarkable woman indeed! I am, after all, the Chief Poet of King Iubdan Tynan of Rudiobus, and that is no mean position, let me assure you. I alone of all Iubdan's people wear scarlet in the king's presence, and I alone possess sufficient skill with words and rhyme to place me throughout histories--immortal and mortal alike--as the most famous poet of all time.
Not that I'm one to boast, mind. One can't help what one is, now can one?
Add to this my great charm and beauty--in my one form, I am a tall, golden-haired, golden-eyed gallant; in my other, a glossy orange cat--and you can see how a perfect mate for me might be difficult to come by. But, were such a woman to exist, she would be as follows:
1. She would necessarily be an immortal like me, for I wouldn't be caught dead sniffing around in the shadow of a mortal woman. (Perish the thought!) And by preference she'd be Rudioban, because we Merry Folk are the brightest and best of all the Faerie. If she happened to be Queen Bebo's own cousin, well, that's not a pedigree at which I would turn up my nose.
2. She would also be desired by many, many men. I wouldn't want to win a girl who didn't make all other men wildly jealous. A fellow does have pride, after all.
3. I do love a challenge, so I require a girl who is hard to get. Not someone who will immediately swoon into my waiting arms. What is the point of possessing irresistible charm if the lady doesn't make at least some effort to resist?
4. Of course, she'd need to be beautiful. Pale skin, green eyes, long flaxen hair. Perfectly turned out in the best of gowns and jewels, the envy of every woman save our gracious queen herself. Always the height of current fashion, setting the standard by which all other ladies of the court measure themselves.
5. She would, of course, be smart. Not merely clever or cunning, but truly intelligent, able to handle herself in whatever situation comes her way. A girl who can find herself in the midst of even a Faerie Wood or a desolate, dragon-burned city and figure out how to survive and find her way. That's a very useful skill.
6. My perfect mate would be unselfish. She would always be looking to the needs of others, even those who do not deserve her concern or care. She would reach out gentle hands to minister to the needy, and she wouldn't have to say a word, but would be a comfort by her mere presence. That's a real woman for you . . .
7. And of course, she'd have to be courageous. This is a dangerous realm, the Far World of Faerie, and cowards cannot thrive here. But a courageous girl, why, she would be the jewel of any man's crown, a woman whose esteem he might strive for all his life.
8. She would be an earnest sort, not given to vain flirtations or pettiness. She would apply herself to whatever task was before her with intensity and drive. How can one not respect and admire a girl like that?
9. She would always be willing to learn new skills. Reading and writing, for instance. Even if she was not brought up to it, she would be a girl ready to expand her mind and work hard to improve herself, not only for personal benefit, but also for the benefit of those around her.
10. She would be . . . What's that you say? Those last several qualities sound like . . . whom?
Oh, no! No, no, no, no, you are gravely mistaken! No, my perfect mate is certainly not Imraldera. Didn't I say she would have to be immortal? And flaxen haired? No, I would never even consider falling for a mortal girl, Lights Above preserve us! The tenth quality my perfect mate must have, by any means, is to not be Imraldera. My perfect mate would have to be Lady Gleamdrené Gormlaith, the queen's cousin, to whom I have dedicated the bulk of my poetic genius. Absolutely.
Besides, I don't think Imraldera would look twice at someone like me . . . .
About the author:
Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she's not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of HEARTLESS, VEILED ROSE, MOONBLOOD, and STARFLOWER, with DRAGONWITCH due to release in 2013. HEARTLESS and VEILED ROSE have each been honored with a Christy Award.