Daughter of Arden: Exile

The world needs more wholesome literature for young people. True, the classics offer us a wealth of truth and beauty, but every time I visit a bookstore, I am discouraged by the contemporary fiction in the YA section. Perhaps this is why I was so refreshed by Daughter of Arden: Exile. Based on the Grimm’s fairy tale “Maid Maleen,” it is the first in a new fantasy trilogy by Loren G. Warnemuende. 1

Both high fantasy and coming-of-age, it tells the story of Princess Maleen, who is tired of her life at Ardenay Castle. Her mother is dead, her father is occupied with preparations for war, and Maleen herself is constantly surrounded by tiresome ladies-in-waiting. She longs for privacy, close companionship, and to be reunited with her beloved Prince Melanor.

But her father has other plans. The kingdom is threatened by the Aharrans, the heathen tribes of the south. To Maleen, the king’s efforts to protect her feel like oppression. He gives her two options: either to marry Prince Jared, who she does not love, or to be shut inside an impenetrable tower on the cursed ground of Bannett Hill. She rebels against her father’s control and refuses to give up Melanor.

“‘I choose the tower,’ she said, and the weight of the stone pressed in around her.” 2

Before she enters, her father gives her a blessing. Closing his eyes, raising his head to the heavens, he chants:

“You cannot ignore the hand of the One Who Leads,
Your destiny is in His hands.
Blessed will you be, oh Princess of Sorrow,
Your search has found its destination.
That which you run from will be your final goal.” 3

To Maleen, these words sound like a curse, a decree that she will never escape. But what if the things she is running from are the things she needs most?

Not for nothing did Warnemuende spend 25 years crafting this tale, seasoning it with the wit and wisdom she learned along the way. Her voice is a delight, rich but accessible, and she reminds us that one need not use 18th Century English in order to use English well. She makes each scene tangible, and gives the Kingdom of Arden what Tolkien called “the inner consistency of reality.” 4

The people of Arden are equally real. Their culture is reminiscent of both Medieval Europe and the Old Testament, laden as it is with tradition and prophecy. Like real people, the characters’ communication styles, emotions, and motives are shaped by their experiences. Growing up is difficult to navigate, and familial relationships are often complicated. As Maleen interacts with her father, with her motherly maidservant, and ultimately with her God, she is made to question the way she sees the world.

Near the beginning of the book, Maleen remembers the words of the gardener: “Dirt is your friend. . . There are different kinds, of course. Some are more fertile than others. But each is designed to help certain things grow.” 5 Perhaps even in the barren ground of Bannett Hill, faith can take root. In the isolation of the Tower, companionship can be found. And even in smoke and darkness, the Mighty One speaks.

Such wisdom, on par with C. S. Lewis and Louisa May Alcott, makes Exile a rare masterpiece. I can hardly wait for book two.6


  1. Loren G. Warnemuende is a fellow contributor to The Lost Tales of Sir Galahad. To learn more about her and how she wrote Exile, check out her website or listen to this episode of The Habit Podcast. To learn more about Exile, visit Bandersnatch Books (or see the Kindle edition on amazon.ca, a more affordable option for my Canadian friends).
  2. Loren G. Warnemuende, Exile, Chapter 3
  3. Loren G. Warnemuende, Exile, Chapter 7
  4. J. R. R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories”
  5. Loren G. Warnemuende, Exile, Chapter 4
  6. Daughter of Arden: Wandering will be released this June!

First image credit to Bandersnatch Books.
Second image is an interior illustration from Exile, drawn by Evelyn Warnemuende.

5 thoughts on “Daughter of Arden: Exile

  1. So well written. Not normally something I might read…. But may have to …. Or you can tell me the rest of the story.

    Love you.

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

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