A Branch of Silver, A Branch of Gold by Anne Elisabeth Stengl | Review

Ooookay. So, I generally try to be all nice and professional-ish when I review books (not that I’m actually that great at it yet, since I’ve only done about five, but still). But I find it very difficult to properly express the extent of my appreciation for Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s books.

The first ones I read were the Goldstone Wood books. I blew through Heartless in a couple of days. When I got back to the hotel room in San Antonio this January, after finishing my Game Show filming, I downloaded Moonblood almost immediately. I loved every one of them.

So when I discovered she had another book (the start of a new series!) I was dying to read it.

First, about the book (from the back cover):

 A Ghost Trapped in a Tower. A Peasant Girl. A Curse Six Hundred Years Old . . .

For six hundred years I have dwelt in this prison. Trapped. Helpless. Unliving and undying.

For six hundred years I have watched as cursebreakers come and go. Brave young women all, gifted with powers beyond mortal understanding.

I have watched them die. I have watched them wish to die.

Once again the Family of Night invades this country to claim its dues, and this generation’s cursebreaker has her chance to break the endless chain of torment. To save me. To save her sisters.

But how can a peasant child scarcely fourteen years of age discover the three-part key and liberate the captives? Will she too be doomed to join the Death Dance binding us all to the Family of Night?

Where to start? The characters were fantastic. Headstrong, unwieldy Heloise, thrown headlong into the task of breaking a six hundred-year-old curse; annoyingly, perfectly patient Evette. Benedict, with his odd mix of temper and apology. Old, toothless, difficult Grandmem (she made me laugh; she was such a perfect old grandmother, and totally opposite the usual sweet grandma cliche). And the sylph. THE SYLPH. I’m not sure how an invisible breeze can be so adorable, but it’s one of the best non-human characters I’ve ever met.

The story was so beautiful. At its core, it’s a story of sisterhood – sisterhood as it should be, close and sure, despite the inevitable rough spots. It’s a story of strength and love (and how closely they intertwine). Of unlikely friendship (which was one of my favorite parts). And I could go on and on, but spoilers. =) Heloise’s journey was gripping and heartrending, and I had an awfully hard time putting it down!

The worldbuilding is awesome too. Stengl’s mastery is in creating two totally dichotomous worlds, then placing them side by side so they mesh and intertwine. She did it again here. There’s the colorful, everyday world of the estate and the castle and the peasants; and then there’s the frightening, mysterious world of the mirror and the curse and the Family of Night. They’re all rich and detailed and full of meaning.

I actually didn’t realize that this retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses was set in basically the same world as the Goldstone Wood books, so that was a nice surprise. And Imraldera! I was so delighted to meet her again (although I was just a little disappointed that Eanrin didn’t show up). We get to see the Wood again (yay!); and just as in the other series, the Lumil Eliasil is the creator/deity figure – assumed to be in charge, even if never actually encountered.

One note though. The magic in Stengl’s stories can be slightly confusing; it makes sense, but not in a totally logical manner. Maybe it would make more sense if I just thought about it… I don’t know. It works though – and the ending was perfect, even if I didn’t completely understand it.
The only other issue is that the next book isn’t here yet! Although, that’s probably a good thing. I’d be wasting an awful lot of study time if it was…

Have you ever read any of Stengl’s books? What did you think? Please let me know so we can fangirl together in the comments!

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