Veiled Rose is a grown-up fairy-tale appropriate for all ages by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.
Being as this book in the second in a fairy-tale/fantasy series called Tales of Goldstone Wood, I would recommend reading the first book (Heartless) first - though I personally didn't get the opportunity to do that and still found Veiled Rose to be easily read as a stand-alone novel.
Eleven-year-old Leo doesn't want to stay indoors watching his boring cousin read research novels - he wants to go out on adventures. After all, what's the point of having a summer in the country if you don't go out in the country? And the rumors of a monster in the woods is growing more rampant - so Leo sets off to hunt the monster with a beanpole.
But he doesn't find a monster. Instead, he finds a girl named Rose Red who is entirely covered in ragged veils. Not a tiny bit of her appearance shows. She lives in the forest with no one but her beloved nanny goat and her kind father. Leo isn't a big fan of girls, but the two hit it off and begin having daily adventures - Leo practically forgets that Rose Red is shrouded in veils.
However, not everyone has forgotten about the monster in the woods - there are those who seek it. And it is not yet clear to the children what danger awaits them both as their friendship is tested.
Veiled Rose has a lovely, sweeping use of adjectives that painted a vivid and magical picture of the story in my mind. It initially sets up a fantasy quest from the prospective of the future and has a charming, instant flashback to Leo's childhood, in which we see him as a stubborn, adventurous boy not fully realizing that he is setting off a course of events that will last many, many years.
I thoroughly enjoyed the classic tone of this enchanting tale. The prose wrapped me up in the story. And Rose Red is a mysterious little figure that I was quite intrigued by and was happy to follow to her eccentric home to learn more about her. Anne Elisabeth Stengl provides the readers' with a sweet, interesting, unique, motley crew of characters!
As the story continued, some creepier bits with Rose Red and her dark, eerie dreams began to offer up more questions and mysteries - which is, of course, fun! I loved the way Stengl tells the tale in a patient, yet constantly inventive and magnetic, manner. Veiled Rose has an epic feeling to it, a larger-than-life scale with a sensitivity and genuineness to it that is refreshing and original.
Veiled Rose spans about ten years worth of time and is truly a wondrous journey of monumental proportions with subtle faith-based metaphors. Now, with some of the late plot developments I think I would still strongly suggest reading Heartless first (again, that is the first book in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series) but it is still fine to read it alone. I know I'm looking forward to going back and reading Heartless very soon, though!
Yet with all this praise, I do feel like I have to say the end left me torn. I, of course, will not give away anything here - no spoilers at the Bibliophile Support Group! But, there was a certain way I was hoping for Veiled Rose to end and it did not happen. Now, is that a bad thing? No. In fact, I love that Anne Elisabeth Stengl continued to keep Veiled Rose absolutely unexpected and cliche-free. However, there was a sadness and a bittersweetness that left me feeling a bit down at the conclusion - when I was hoping to feel happier. Was this conclusion more poignant and meaningful? Perhaps. But it didn't change the fact that I had been hoping for a happier end.
Again: this is only my opinion - what may have been considered happy to me doesn't mean it would be happy for you! Read Veiled Rose for yourself and don't take this as any sort of sign of how it will end, because this is very much an individual opinion!
This is the thing - there is going to be another book in the Tales of Goldstone Wood coming out next year called Moonblood. I believe (from the excerpt) that it will continue this delicate yet strong story - so it really isn't an end at all.
I strongly, strongly recommend Veiled Rose as a brand-new, beautiful, inspirational and heartrending fantasy that gives a mature perspective. It's a wonderful story that I believe you should read as well, especially if you're a fantasy or fairy-tale lover looking for something new and different!
*I received a copy of Veiled Rose from the Bethany House Book Reviewers program, which you can check out here. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.