Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Spoiler alert! This review gives away the end of the book.

Veiled Rose is the second book in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. While reading, I was under the impression it was just one book in a series of different stories set in Goldstone Wood, but it’s actually a chronological series about some of the same characters. Therein lies my first problem with this book; I would have enjoyed it more had I realized it was not a stand-alone story—I wouldn’t have expected the same level of back story or resolution. Just including the book number on the spine would have helped.

The book centers around two main characters. Rose Red is a mysterious, veiled girl who spends the first part of her life in hiding with her nanny goat Beana and her “father,” who is a gardener for a local family.  Lionheart is a prince in search of the Monster that is said to prowl in the woods near his cousin’s home. While searching for the Monster, Lionheart meets Rose Red, and the two become friends. Several years later, a Dragon takes over Lionheart’s kingdom—Southland—and he and Rose Red find themselves fighting the Dragon to ensure the survival of the kingdom.

Veiled Rose has a very ethereal feel to it. The spiritual elements and mystery surrounding Rose Red give the story and even the writing a not-quite-concrete feel. I enjoyed it for a while. Much of the story was told through dreams, which blended with reality in a way that meant not knowing which way was up. I gave Stendhl the benefit of the doubt and assumed the confusion would clear if I kept reading. To some extent, it did, but I still don’t what to think about some of the characters.

While not knowing Rose Red’s true identity kept me reading, it was also my biggest frustration with the book. Halfway through the book, I thought I had figured out that she was a faerie, and I hated having to wait until page 373 (out of 375) to find out what she was hiding. And she ended up being a goblin!

I was a little confused. There was no other mention of goblins in the entire book, so it was really unsatisfying to discover that was her reason for hiding. To show the significance, Stengl should have given goblins a larger role in the story—even if they had just been part of the faerie legends Lionheart and others alluded to. Little details like that would have helped explain why she was a social outcast. As it was, I put the book down thinking, “Really? That’s it?”

There was a lot of vague spirituality in Veiled Rose, and I’m actually surprised Bethany House published it. Though there was nothing inappropriate in it, there was no Christian message, at least not that I could pick up on.  A few elements could be symbolic of Christianity, but the spirituality in the book was so jarbled that I couldn’t even tell who all of the spiritual “good guys” were.

Despite my complaints about this book, I got attached to the characters. Perhaps that’s why I was so disappointed. I didn’t get the kind of resolution I was hoping for. Maybe I should read the other books. I know there will be more closure with the next one (assuming it’s the last one), but I really think every book—even if it’s in a series—needs to have a story that can stand on its own. This one doesn’t, at least not without disappointing the reader.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review. My opinion of this book is my own and was not influenced by the publisher or author.

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