This fantasy is spectacular, especially for a debut novel. Although the back cover blurb may give the impression that Heartless
is a simple romantic fairytale, to describe it thus is to sell it short; it is an allegory in a similar vein to C.S. Lewis' classic The Voyage of the 'Dawn Treader'
and the story is rich with the darkness of Man's condition outside of Christ and his inability to do anything about it. I did not fully agree with the theology, as in some places it seemed that the Christ-like character was dependent on the trust of various individuals to be able to save them, but the story was still excellent.
Note: Instead of reading this one first and
second, as they are meant to be read, I devoured them the other way around, and I think my enjoyment of Heartless
was increased by it. I am amazed at Ms. Stengl's ability to craft the two stories as different sides of the same coin; I especially marveled at the way she would, at times, use a scene from Heartless
in Veiled Rose
, but from another character's perspective. I would personally advise people to read Veiled Rose
first, but if you read one and do not fully enjoy it, perhaps reading the other will increase your appreciation. The two are not really dependent on one another, but each adds to its fellow novel.