I joined an online book club this month, and this is the book we’re reading. Heartless, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.
The summary makes it sound really boring. Here’s the official one off Amazon:
Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon be married. She dreams of a handsome and charming prince, but when the first suitor arrives, she finds him stodgy and boring. Prince Aethelbald from the mysterious land of Farthestshore has traveled far to prove his love–and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be approaching Parumvir.
Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald’s offer–and ignores his warnings. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir, and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in grave danger. Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.
Okay, I thought from this summary that the dragon would show up as a suitor, and she’d fall for the dragon, only to find out her mistake, and the guy she didn’t like would have to save her.
Guess what! That’s not what happens.
First off, this book is well-written and the characters are memorable. I had to keep checking the cover to make sure I was reading Christian fiction, because this book is too good to be Christian fiction. Also there was no heavy-handed metaphor, or Jesus figures. There’s a scene toward the end that I imagine might be the closest this book got to any overly Christian stuff. Otherwise, there’s nothing to make it Christiany.
The first thing that happens is the Twelve Year Market, when a ton of vendors show up from Faerie and sell magical things like unicorn fry and seven-league boots. That part alone enchanted me. I liked Una enough to put up with her romantic preoccupations, and her little brother Felix is a hoot.
When the Dragon actually shows up, he is seriously bad news. Imagine if Voldemort could turn into a 3-story dragon who breathes out poison gas that either kills you or makes you insane, when he’s not just roasting you to death with dragon napalm. I’m afraid I have to have a little spoiler here.
Okay, spoiler for the second half of the book:
Una gets turned into a dragon. Which I totally did not see coming. The second half of the book is all about her unraveling lies that have been told to her, and finding out which of her boyfriends really does love her. And also war and death and the kingdom falling apart in a sort of localized dragon-powered apocalypse. It’s AWESOME.
So yes. I highly recommend this book. I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequels, which branch off to follow one of the boyfriends in question and why he did the things he did.