Title: Daughter of the Forest
Author: Juliet Marillier
Publisher: Tor Books
My Rating: 5/5 stars
**Sidenote: This is actually the first review I ever wrote, but I somehow forgot to post it on my other shared blog, so it seems only fitting that it be my first on here. It’s rare that I give out five-star ratings anymore, as it is only my absolute favorites that get full stars, but this rating still stands. 🙂
Daughter of the Forest is the first of six in Juliet Marillier’s historical fantasy series Sevenwaters. With a Celtic medieval setting, this first installment is based on both the German fairy tale “The Six Swans” and the Irish “Children of Lir” legend.
If you are familiar with those tales, you have an idea of where the story is going. It involves, of course, an evil stepmother, a wicked curse, a charming love interest, and an impossible task that must be completed. Okay, maybe you just need basic knowledge of how fairy tales work.
“You will find the way, daughter of the forest. Through grief and pain, through many trials, through betrayal and loss, your feet will walk a straight path.”
In Daughter of the Forest, the aforementioned task is bestowed upon our heroine Sorcha, the seventh child and only daughter to Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Without spoiling too much:
After their mother’s death, Lord Colum is a changed man and is in no position to be a good, nurturing father. Therefore, it is up to Sorcha and her six brothers to raise themselves. Naturally, they develop an unbreakable bond and are all fiercely protective of one another.
The children have a wild upbringing, what with being heavily surrounded by forest at Sevenwaters, and Sorcha truly becomes a daughter of the forest. They each pride themselves on learning and begin to develop their own respective skills–Sorcha’s being healing. And even with their father constantly preparing for war with the Britons, they have a mostly peaceful childhood. When Sorcha is about twelve, her father remarries, and this is where everything starts to fall apart and the real story begins.
“My world was changing, and I was not ready for it.”
Marillier’s magical writing and vivid imagery thoroughly sucked me in. I was absolutely and entirely enthralled with the world of Sevenwaters. As I reached the last page, I knew I was in for a world of hurt coming out of this book–the dreaded good-book hangover.
The characters are just as captivating as the unique setting. Often in books it can feel like there are only a couple of characters that we have to love and be entertained by and worry about, and the rest are there in the background adding nothing worthwhile to the story. This is thankfully not the case for Daughter of the Forest.
Sorcha is such a refreshing “strong” female character–she never needs to prove her strength in the way that most female characters these days must (i.e. beating people up) to be recognized as “strong.” She has an internal strength that few people will ever possess. She doesn’t take the easy way out and doesn’t give up her mission or life to be with a guy. She puts others before herself and is kind even to those who treat her cruelly. If you couldn’t tell, Sorcha has quickly become one of my favorite protagonists. If I were ever stranded on a deserted island, I would definitely want her survival skills and storytelling abilities to pass the time.
Her six older brothers are also characterized very well. They each have their different personalities, different interests, and strengths and weaknesses; it never feels like they are there just for the sake of being there. Liam, Diarmid, Cormack, Connor, Finbar, and Padriac. They are each their own person with strong identities–which is impressive considering there are six of them. I especially loved Finbar.
Of course there are definitely more characters–one, whom I could go on about endlessly–but I think it’s best to discover them on your own.
**My only complaint with the book is that there was a scene I really didn’t feel was necessary and may be triggering to some, so just be wary of that and take it into consideration before picking it up. If you’ve read the book, you know what I’m talking about.**
Odd as it may seem, I also really enjoyed the feeling of dread that I had while reading. I love fairytales, but I don’t like knowing that everything is going to work out perfectly with the whole “happily ever after” cliché. And that was certainly not the case for this story. Not for everyone, at least.
“Real life is not quite as it is in stories. In the old tales, bad things happen, and when the tale has unfolded and come to its triumphant conclusion, it is as if the bad things had never been. Life is not as simple as that, not quite.”
This book was pretty much a dream for me. It had everything I could ever want–a strong, intelligent heroine, a beautiful setting, captivating secondary characters and the unbreakable bonds they shared, and a lot of vibrant storytelling involving Celtic mythology.
And, of course, the romance.
“He would have told her – he would have said, it matters not if you are here or there, for I see you before me every moment. I see you in the light of the water, in the swaying of the young trees in the spring wind. I see you in the shadows of the great oaks, I hear your voice in the cry of the owl at night. You are the blood in my veins, and the beating of my heart. You are my first waking thought, and my last sigh before sleeping. You are – you are bone of my bone, and breath of my breath.”
*swoons* Thank goodness there are five more books in this series.
Conclusion: I recommend this favorite book of mine for those who love re-tellings, Celtic mythology, fantasy novels, and/or strong protagonists.
Thanks for reading, and let me know if you’ve read or plan to read Daughter of the Forest!
(Also, if you’re thinking of buying any of Marillier’s books, you can use this link and I will earn a small commission.)
One song to listen to while you read (or just in general): Game of Survival by Ruelle