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Book Review

This romantic fantasy book is the first in the " Tales of Goldstone Wood" series by Anne Elisabeth Stengl and is published by Bethany House Publishers, a division of the Baker Publishing Group.

Heartless is written for kids ages 13 to 16. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Princess Una and Prince Felix play by the Old Bridge near Goldstone Wood, outside the boundaries of Oriana, which is under King Fidel's rule. When Una disobeys the unwritten law that says no one should cross the Old Bridge and go into the woods, she is met by a caterwauling cat with golden fur and no eyes. Una explores no further, but returns to her father's palace with her new pet.

Five years later, after Una's 18th birthday, Una meets Prince Aethelbald from Farthestshore, her first suitor. During the Twelve-Year Market in Parumvir — a magical gathering of mystical vendors and wares — Una wanders into a fortune-teller's tent. Aethelbald pulls her away from the tent, but not before the object she held to view her future has burned her hands.

Una thinks Aethelbald is rude and dislikes him. She prefers Prince Gervais of Beauclair, her second suitor. Gervais knows how to write poetry and sing love songs. However, King Fidel learns that Gervais has amassed huge gambling debts and is looking to find a rich wife to help pay them. In her grief over losing Gervais as a suitor, Una meets a jester named Leonard. He gains a position in the king's court as the fool and captivates Una's heart. Leonard tells her that he is really a prince — Prince Lionheart of Southlands. He has fled his home because a Dragon has taken control of his country. He wants to return; however, the distance is great, and he must earn passage money, which is why he works as a jester. Una believes him. She agrees to wait for his return and gives him her priceless opal ring, which belonged to her late mother. He leaves for Southlands.

A fourth suitor enters the scene, Duke Shippening, who is obese and old enough to be Una's father. Meanwhile, Leonard strikes a deal with the Dragon in Southlands. He renounces his love for Una so the Dragon may have her. The Dragon gives him back his kingdom.

Once the deal is finished, the Dragon invades Parumvir and destroys most of the city. Una's father and brother flee the palace, but the Dragon captures Una. Duke Shippening had struck his own deal with the Dragon in order to obtain Una as his bride and take over her father's kingdom.

The battles between King Fidel's beleaguered troops and Shippening's men, with the Dragon on his side, continue. When Prince Aethelbald hears of the battle, he returns to Parumvir and finds Felix wounded. He brings Felix to the healing hands of Dame Imraldera — a leader in the Faerie world. Una, whose heart was readied for the Dragon when her hands were burned by the fortune-teller's shield and through her disobedience in crossing the Old Bridge in her youth, receives the Dragon's kisses on her forehead and lets him steal her heart. She becomes a Dragon girl.

The Dragon is drawn into a battle with King Felix. The Dragon girl, who realizes her father is about to be killed by the Dragon, attacks the Dragon. She is successful in saving her father but is terribly wounded. With her newfound Dragon body she flies to Southlands to heal. She sees for herself that Leonard has abandoned her.

Una discovers a city of Dragons where she rests. Prince Aethelbald walks into the Dragon City to save Una. Again Una rejects his offer of help and chooses to fly back to Parumvir. She again battles with the Dragon, but this time, she is burnt, tattered and dying. Aethelbald finds her, and she realizes her only hope is Aethelbald.

He can save her, but she must die first. She agrees, and Aethelbald's blade finds her heart. The Dragon girl dies, but a transformed Una replaces her. She gives her heart to Aethelbald. Together they return to battle the Dragon. Aethelbald kills it, sets King Fidel back on his throne and makes Una his bride.

Christian Beliefs

This is a Christian allegory, with all aspects of the plot and characters pointing to Jesus Christ and His love for the church, His bride, and the plan of salvation for each person's soul.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Una and Felix love and intend to obey their father, King Fidel. The knights of Aethelbald obey him implicitly. The soldiers of King Fidel obey him as well as his top general, Argus. All the lesser Dragons fear and obey the Dragon. Prince Aethelbald puts the Faerie Dame Imraldera in charge of healing and protecting Felix when the Dragon injures him. Prince Felix obeys the Faerie Dame and remains under her care until she agrees he can go.


When the battles begin halfway through the book, the city of Sondhold is burned, the Dragon claws Felix and blood covers the Dragon's talons. Una, as a Dragon, and the Dragon fight each other — blood covers them both and screams fill the air. The Dragon's throne becomes covered in blood from his victims. General Argus is mortally wounded and covered in blood. The Dragon and three knights engage in a fierce battle. Una, as a Dragon, is stabbed by Aethelbald's sword. Blood covers Aethelbald's hands as he defends himself against the Dragon.


The Dragon kisses Una on the forehead, which allows him to steal her heart.

Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

  • Heartless is an allegory.
  • What truth is it trying to represent?
  • Who is Una? Prince Aethelbald? Prince Gervais? Prince Lionheart? The Dragon?

  • At first, Princess Una is concerned only for her own needs and desires. Why was Una drawn to Prince Gervais?

  • What attracted her to Leonard?
  • What is likable about each suitor?

  • How do Una's past actions open her to the Dragon's kiss?

  • What draws Duke Shippening to make a deal with the Dragon?

  • What happens to him as a result?

  • Did Prince Lionheart make the right choice in his deal with the Dragon?

  • What drove the Dragon girl to attack the Dragon?

  • How does this story help you understand Christ's offer of salvation?

  • How does it show you His love for the church?

Additional Comments/Notes

Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

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