Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Andari Chronicles Review: Goldheart

So....a month ago, I reviewed the other two books of this series, and indicated that this review was coming soon. Unfortunately, a complication known as Real Life interfered with my plans, and took away my blogging time. Today, I've decided to ignore Real Life long enough to get this review written. It'll be short and sweet, just like this book.

Goldheart is a retelling of "Rumpelstiltskin" starring Elaine, an off-screen character mentioned in Traitor's Masque. Elaine is a quiet, timid girl who would like to ignore the rest of the world and paint in solitude. Unfortunately, her father's death leaves her in financial difficulties and forces her to work as a portrait painter. A wealthy, demanding businessman commissions Elaine to paint a portrait of his wife, and locks her in his mansion until she creates the perfect masterpiece. Soon, Will, a friend of the businessman's son, learns about Elaine's plight, and helps her to overcome the difficulties of her situation.

This book is truly beautiful. It's a much simpler story than the other ones in the series, with no political intrigue, few characters, and easily guessable plot twists, but it resonated with me deeply. The three main protagonists are all heavily flawed people carrying pain from their pasts; I cared deeply about each one of them and found their friendship incredibly moving. I loved the book's exploration of the beauty and power of art; it was a wonderful look into the creative process that made me want to take up painting. The plot was simple, but contained very real danger, including a surprisingly and wonderfully intense climax. It's not a perfect story, but its combination of sweetness and sadness had a profound impact upon my heart.

Though different in many ways from the rest of the Andari Chronicles, Goldheart fits the mood and tone of the series and improves upon some points found in the other books. As in Traitor's Masque, the main character receives family-like support from a group of caring servants, but I found the servants' devotion in Goldheart much more touching and better illustrated--probably because Elaine needs much more tender, loving care than Trystan did. As in Pirouette, there's an evil manservant, but in Goldheart, the butler is far more present in the plot, making him more intimidating. Plus, this book's shorter length eliminates the wordiness present in the other two books. I'm not sure if Goldheart beats out Pirouette as my favorite--"The Twelve Dancing Princesses"is my favorite source of retellings, and I love the political intrigue and wit of Pirouette's plot and characters--but Goldheart had the strongest impact upon my emotions and made me bond most deeply to the characters. I'm almost afraid to reread it, in fear that it won't affect me as strongly a second time around, but I know I won't be able to resist for long.

As a bonus, I recently discovered that Kenley Davidson wrote a prequel novella, which is free for people who subscribe to her newsletter. The Countess and the Frog is even shorter than Goldheart, and details the love story of Prince Ramsey's aunt, Countess Norelle, and her husband, Caspar. Caspar is by far my favorite romantic hero in the series (a quiet bookworm with a strong, self-deprecating sense of humor--I was swooning), and the novella is a  cute look at the backstories of several characters from Traitor's Masque.  Definitely worth checking out (as is the rest of the series, in case this set of blog posts hasn't already made that clear).

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