Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Starflower": Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Top 10 Favorite Characters

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When a cursed dragon-witch kidnaps the lovely Lady Gleamdren, Eanrin sets boldly forth on a rescue mission...and a race against his rival for Gleamdren's favor. Intent upon his quest, the last thing the immortal Faerie needs is to become mixed up with the troubles of an insignificant mortal.

But when he stumbles upon a maiden trapped in an enchanted sleep, he cannot leave her alone in the dangerous Wood Between. One waking kiss later, Eanrin suddenly finds his story entangled with that of young Starflower. A strange link exists between this mortal girl and the dragon-witch. Will Starflower prove the key to Lady Gleamdren's rescue? Or will the dark power from which she flees destroy both her and her rescuer?

Anne Elisabeth Stengl's 
Top 10 Favorite Book Characters

1. Sherlock Holmes:  I can hardly believe this is the very first character to come to mind. But of all the books I've read, all the characters I've loved, all those years as an English Lit. major . . . Sherlock Holmes is the very first who leaps to mind when I'm asked this question! He's one of the most memorable figures in all literary history, certainly not for any grace or charm on his part. We have in recent history seen him reinvented again and again for novels (such as Laurie King's fabulous Beekeeper's Apprentice) and movies and TV. But all of these great stories are founded on the one and only character first created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

2. Howl:  The vain and petulant wizard of Diana Wynne Jones's fabulous Howl's Moving Castle. I actually looked at this book in the library throughout my high school years without ever bothering to pick it up. Then, finally, during my sophomore year of college, I decided to give it a try. I'd spent my first year in college reading only for classes. But my second year, sanity dictated that I make time for pleasure reading! And Howl's Moving Castle was one of those reads. Howl himself has had a special place in my heart ever since.

3. Eugenides: Very like Howl, but more intricately fleshed out, Eugenides is another vain and remarkably talented young man who gives every impression of being the opposite of what you'd expect in a hero . . . and then turns everything you thought you knew on its head and proves himself a fabulous hero! His creator, Megan Whalen Turner, claims to have been inspired for his character by Diana Wynne Jones's Howl, so it's no wonder I love Eugenides so much.

4. Sam Vimes: Captain of the Ankh-Morpork Night Watch and later the Duke of Ankh, Sam Vimes is my favorite character from Sir Terry Pratchett's sprawling and wonderful Disc World series. Every time I pick up a Vimes novel, I know I'm going to lose myself completely. He's a dry, conflicted, honorable, crusty, soft-hearted contradiction of a complicated man. Amazing!

5. Justin: From Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I have to include this character because he was possibly my very first literary crush. I was terribly in love with Justin, rat though he may be. And really, when I re-read the book recently, I realized that he only plays a very small part in the novel! But it's enough. I was completely sold on him. And I still tear-up at the ending of that book . . . 

6. Harriet Vane: I was going to say Lord Peter Wimsey, but realized that this list is getting very male-character dominated. So I switched to Harriet Vane, who is a worthy counterpart to Peter Wimsey in Dorothy Sayers's classic mystery novels. First introduced in Strong Poison, Harriet Vane serves in that novel as an unusual damsel in distress . . . but goes on to prove her own strength and intelligence, equal to Wimsey's own in Have His Carcass. I particularly enjoy her because she is herself a novelist, and her experience with novel-writing hits close to home! A wonderful character.

7. Frodo Baggins: It is difficult to pick a favorite character out of Tolkien's enormous epic. In the end, I have to pick Frodo, however, because he indirectly inspired me to begin writing fantasy novels of my own. I was about twelve the second time my father decided to read The Lord of the Rings out loud to me and my brothers. I remember sitting in our living room, listening to Papa read the scene of Frodo flying on horseback to the ford, pursued by terrifying Nazgul. Then, right at the end of the scene, he turns and faces them, telling them to go back to Mordor where they belong. That image of such a small, brave figure facing an insurmountable foe was so compelling to my young imagination! I decided there and then that I would write a fantasy novel . . . something I'd not yet tried at that point. The next day, I started it. And oh, it was a disaster project! But I did finish it, and it did start me on the road to my future career . . . So, thanks, Frodo!

8. Anne Elliot: Persuasion is my favorite of Jane Austen's novels, and Anne Elliot, though very quiet and demure, is my favorite of her heroines. Anne Elliot is, I think, a late-bloomer, but she has an inner strength all her own. The last time I read that novel, I found myself keenly relating to her on many levels. I need to read that book again!

9. Sidney Carton: Possibly the best anti-hero ever! I really love this character from Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. He has the best role and most of the best lines . . . and he made me cry at the end!

10. Jane Eyre: Again, this list is definitely male-dominated, but Jane Eyre is a plucky young heroine to toss into this mix. Charlotte Bronte poured so much of herself into the creating of this character, and you can feel the life and truth of Jane as a result. A dynamic heroine who will be loved for centuries to come when many pop-culture heroines of our day have long since been forgotten.

Author Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she's not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of HEARTLESS, VEILED ROSE, MOONBLOOD, and STARFLOWER, with DRAGONWITCH due to release in 2013. HEARTLESS and VEILED ROSE have each been honored with a Christy Award.

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