Clear your schedule before you pick this one up.

I’m serious. I made the mistake of starting Golden Daughter when I had a plethora of imminent deadlines looming over my head, and setting this book aside to attend to them was torturous. Once you become immersed in this particular Tale of Goldstone Wood, you will not want to leave.

Don’t let the girly cover fool you. As is often the case with the Tales of Goldstone Wood, the book is truly terrifying in parts—and I chose a bad time to eat dinner, as I read the scenes with the imps. This story is intense, in a good way.

Sairu, the heroine of the book, is possibly my favorite female character of Stengl’s, which is really saying something—I was in love with Starflower, hitherto my favorite installment in the series. Golden Daughter has wrested the status of favorite away from the earlier book, however, and this is due in large part to Sairu. She is intriguing, realistic, terrifying, and lovable. The whole premise of the Golden Daughters is fascinating, and I would love to see more of them in future stories.

All of the characters, even the minor ones, are drawn in such a lifelike way that you’ll swear you’ve met some of these people before. Jovann in particular impressed me very much and is one of Stengl’s most likeable heroes, in my opinion. Eanrin maintains his charm and mystery, and by this time, I feel like no story is quite complete without him. In each book, we learn more about him, and I adore him even more.

Stengl creates a multi-faceted, intriguing culture for Golden Daughter, one that is quite different from those in her other books. Her command of multiple storylines is impressive, and all of the plots weave together beautifully at the end. The story casts new significance on the events of earlier books in the series, particularly Heartless—which made me like Heartless much more. While I admit I preferred the day-to-day character interactions and plots to the more cosmological, allegorical ones, all of the threads were skillfully manipulated to create a cohesive, dark, funny, fascinating, eerily realistic whole.