I love to read. As such, my Kindle is one of my favorite toys. Books are a bit easier on the wallet, and I can take my entire library with me. And then there’s special deals. Authors will often offer the first book in a series for free or at a discount to draw in readers. I’ve discovered some of my favorite authors that way, and bought the entire series as a result.

Enter Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.

I don’t remember when I took advantage of the offer, but it sat in my “To Be Read” collection for a while. I’d seen that the book won a Christy for Debut author, but other things were on my plate first. When I eventually got to it, I must admit I didn’t get far before putting it down. It starts a little slow, and I was sleepy at the time.

So, it sat in my Kindle.

I ran out of stuff to read last week and decided to give it another try.

I’m glad I did because now I have another favorite author.


Heartless came off as a fairy tale story to me at first. I’m not a big fan of fairy tales, but the worldbuilding piqued my curiosity. Una and Felix became more interesting characters as the story progressed, but I became hooked when the Aethelbald’s folk came out of the wood. Miss Stengl laid down a very intriguing set of popcorn trails in that chapter, and I had to follow. I soon realized this wasn’t a light-hearted fairy tale, but a layered story that took me deeper with each page.

The themes she wove into the story were brilliant. As a Christian, there were numerous occasions where the images tugged on my heartstrings because I knew exactly what she was talking about. And the ending satisfied.

I was surprised to see that the book was written from the perspective of an omniscient narrator. It wouldn’t have survived half the critique groups I’ve been in. But anyone that would judge the book solely because the author head-hopped or ignored modern intimate PoV techniques is missing the point that story is king.

I’ve heard people say you can’t have a great story if you’re not using the proper techniques. I wholly disagree. For most of us, the ability to tell a great story will depend on our ability to hone our craft by following the rules that work in this industry. But some stories are just so darn good that only the poorest writer could ruin it with technique. And I’ve found that people who can dream up an amazing story often have a gift to share it in a unique way.

Miss Stengl is one such author. Heartless will pull you into the world of Goldstone Wood and leave you craving for more.

As an author, I hope to leave the same impression with my readers. So, anybody else out there read the book? I tried to stay spoiler free, but I’d love to bounce a few ideas off some folks, especially about her imagery.

About Will Ramirez

Will Ramirez grew up with a love for God's Word and fantastical worlds. The first passion led him to pastor Calvary Chapel Lighthouse for the the last 17 years. The second led him to create the world of Adme, the setting for his coming debut novel, an epic fantasy titled Soul Yearning. He lives in Central Florida with his bride of seventeen years and their four children. Since 2010, he's been a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and serves on the leadership team of Word Weavers of Orlando. He is currently working on the second book of the Godslayer series as well as The Unspoken, book one of a dark fantasy trilogy. In the land of Adme, powerful beings rule as deities and compete with one another for followers. But when a young priest is revealed as the prophesied godslayer, the pantheon unites to destroy him.

3 comments on “Heartless

  1. So far, to my shame, Heartless is the only one of her books I’ve managed to read. (They had books 1, 3 and 4 at the library, but not book 2. Go figure.) Wasn’t it just wonderful? The second half of the book completely blew me away. I did NOT see that coming. It was amazing.

  2. Yah, I thought I was in for a ho-hum ride. Then blammo – She totally turned the story on its head. It made sense afterward, so she set it up perfectly. But gosh – I wasn’t expecting it to go that dark or that bad for the protagonists.

    I haven’t started book 2 yet – It seems like the characters are all new. I’m curious about what happens to Felix in the future, but I don’t think she’s written that story yet.

  3. This is one that I have in my Kindle app, but I haven’t read it yet. Omniscient POV, huh? And I see it’s got a prologue. Hrm. I’m going to trust you that the story’s worth sticking through the slow points for. 😉

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