I received a free copy of Draven’s Light in exchange for my honest review.
“Before he could catch his breath, a certain silvery voice fell upon their ears: the liquid song of a morning thrush in the branches above their heads.” Draven’s Light is the second Novella of Goldstone Wood which are little inserts in the series Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. I have been reading Stengl’s books for years now, and I am always floored by her skill and the stories she tells. Draven’s Light did not disappoint. He was supposed to kill that prisoner in cold blood before the men of his tribe in order to gain his man’s name and leave his boy’s name behind. He could have very easily dispatched the prisoner, for as is often remarked, he was a bear of a man, but just as he was about to deliver the fatal stroke, he realized that he was no killer. Despite the shame and disgrace that he knew would fall upon him, he let the prisoner live. Instead of a man’s name, he was deemed Draven, “Coward”.
Draven has a crippled sister, Ita, and I thoroughly enjoyed the brother sister relationship that they shared. Though she is crippled, Ita is fierce, and though his huge, Draven is meek. They complement each other sharply, and Stengl portrays a beautifully deep bond based on respect and love. This element alone could make the book as it was fleshed out nicely, but there’s also some romance, peril, and suspense. The romance was tasteful but thrilling, and it fits the noble style of Stengl’s writing and the characters.
Now, Draven’s Light was kind of dark, but I think when the premise is a guy becoming an outcast because he doesn’t kill someone in cold blood, the reader should be able to gather that this isn’t going to be all singing thrushes and gleaming moonlight. The violence is portrayed as a truly ugly thing. Part of why I like this story so much is that it’s not just like “killing bad” or “death sad”, it’s saying killing is gruesome, and death is a tragedy.
Stengl was masterful in creating suspense. Draven and the reader are told early on, “Don’t cross the river”, and it’s not a blaring thing throughout the book. What makes it so suspenseful is that it’s always niggling in the back of the reader’s mind as the story marches forward and we imagine all sorts of things that could possibly be across the river. (Also, Goldstone Wood groupies, the Brothers Ashiun are in Draven’s Light. That’s right. We learn a little more about Etanun and Akilun, and it ends up making what we already know all the more painful. *fangirling* And remember Gutta from Starflower, well…)
In conclusion, Draven’s Light is a powerful story despite its brevity. If you have read any other Tales of Goldstone Wood books, this is a thrilling addition as Stengl expands her fabulously diverse world. If you haven’t read any of Stengl’s, books this is still a gripping story well worth reading. This is complete with strong characters, superb pacing, a solid but twisting plot, and a satisfying ending. In this story, we see the true meaning of courage. Again and again, Draven thinks he’s a coward, but we see that it’s not really weakness. If he was a coward, he would have killed that prisoner instead of face the shame of letting him live. Fear doesn’t make you a coward, and when you push on despite of fear, that’s courage.