geekery · reviews

Book Review – Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Daughter of the Forest  (Sevenwaters, #1)Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Juliet Marillier weaves a new and fascinating story out the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Wild Swans. She sets it in ancient Ireland and reduces the number of brothers from 11 to 6 as well as a few other minor changes. The essence of the original story is still there but expanded into a fully formed novel.

Sorcha is the protagonist, tasked by the fairy queen with saving her 6 brothers from an evil spell which has turned them into swans, put on them by their wicked stepmother. She must hand weave each brother a shirt out of yarn made from stinging nettles and never say a word throughout the entire process or they will be lost to the spell forever. Her courage and faith in herself and them is tested at every possible turn by nature, men, religion and of course witchcraft. Through it all she perseveres out of love for her family.

This is escapist fantasy at it’s best. I love fairy tales and this was a fully fleshed out retelling of one of my favorites. It retains it’s ethereal quality with wild and gorgeous landscapes and just the right amount of earthy magic. The hero’s task is supremely difficult and the price of failure unimaginably cruel. The love story becomes a bit of a bore at times, with no one realizing that it’s love until the last possible moment and even then resisting it far too much. No one is that selfless.

I found the book to be well written and engaging, however the characters are somewhat flat. They behave exactly as you expect them to and seem a bit archetypal but that isn’t surprising considering that it’s a a re-imagined fairy tale that has such a strong dramatic flair. It was a great stand alone story that has complete closure and I did not find myself wanting more. There seems to be several other books written in this world with descendants and what-not (a la Dune) and I don’t think I will be picking those up.

There are some graphic bits to the story, some sexual and some violent but it was well done, in context and not over the top. I enjoyed it as a quick fun read, while not the best the fantasy genre has to offer I found it worth the time.

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