Retro Friday Review: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier


July 27, 2012 by Heidi

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time!

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier book coverTitle: Daughter of the Forest [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Juliet Marillier [Website|Facebook]
Standing: First in the Sevenwaters series of companion novels.
Genre: Fantasy
Published: February 18th, 2002 by Tor (First published in 1999).
Format: Paperback; 554 pages
Source: Finished copy from Wendy at The Midnight Garden

Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment.

But Sorcha’s joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift-by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever.

When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all…

I think it goes without saying that I read a lot of books. I like pretty much everything (because if I don’t like it, I usually abandon it), love a good deal, but every so often a book comes along that hits me in a way I know I will remember forever.

It’s taken me nearly two months to compose my thoughts on Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest.  Usually, this is a length of time in which I will give up reviewing a book altogether, it wasn’t meant to be, and that’s fine.  But I can’t do that with Daughter of the Forest because I feel utterly compelled to tell you all how much I adored this book, even though the words I use to do so will inevitably fall short of the beautiful reality that is this book.

For years I have sat happily in the fantasy comfort zone I had constructed for myself.  I read the same authors I’ve always read, only tried new things when they came highly recommended by friends, and was quite content to remain that way.  But that second bit–the part where I try things based on friends–that’s where I’ve always found new authors that I love, and that’s how I found Juliet Marillier.  When everyone whose opinion I trust badgers me to read a certain book, I will eventually listen, because they’re probably right.  So thank you to all of you who at one point or another told me to read Juliet Marillier.  You know who you are, and you know you were right.  Picking up Daughter of the Forest was, for me, a refreshing experience of the like I haven’t had since I picked up Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind back in 2008.  Four years is a long time to go without letting a new fantasy author worm their way into my heart, but my enthusiasm is double fold for the fact that Juliet Marillier has a stunning backlog for me to wade through, and I certainly intend to.

I knew going in that Daughter of the Forest was a historical fantasy retelling of The Seven Swans, but I didn’t fully comprehend the magnitude of emotion that would wash over me while reading this tale.  Reading about Sorcha’s wild childhood with her seven brothers, the horror that descended upon them in the form of an evil stepmother, and the heart breaking struggle that was Sorcha’s to bear as she worked to set her brothers free held me enraptured.  Juliet Marillier ripped my heart out and smashed it slowly throughout Daughter of the Forest in ways that should have left me destitute.  Instead, she also managed to lift me up with those moments of happiness that shine all the brighter for the darkness they are up against.  If Sorcha’s struggles wouldn’t have been so utterly difficult to endure, her triumphs wouldn’t have been so glorious to behold.

Sorcha is, without a doubt, one of the strongest female leads I have ever encountered.  The fact that she is physically small and delicate, and completely unable to defend herself in any way beyond her mind makes her stand out all the more.  I love my strong women, but most of them literally kick butt.  And I love that.  I love a woman who can fight and beat men, but Sorcha–Sorcha!–has the strongest character of any of them.  She is not broken by the horrible things that are done to her, even when she might be, her intense ability to love keeps her going.

So much of Daughter of the Forest is driven by the bonds between siblings.  The bonds that will drive them across the seas, bring them into other’s homes, and cause them to spend years seeking resolution.  Sorcha’s unwavering devotion to her brothers, and that of her brothers in return is the perfect contrast for Simon and Red who never really understood their own relationship until it was too late.  I loved them all, and found Daughter of the Forest to have the type of romance that will stand the test of time, the type I will never forget and will inevitably replay scenes of in my head daily.

I wish I had more eloquent words to talk about Daughter of the Forest, it deserves them.  I could go on for some time about my love for these characters, this story, or the absolutely enchanting world surrounding them, but I think your time is better spent just reading this book.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more:  Honestly?  Just thinking about this book and writing these (sorely inadequate) words makes me want to pick up Son of the Shadows instantly.  I may or may not have had a somewhat violent reaction when I checked the library catalog and saw it’s checked out through most of August…but I do have Shadowfell which I will be reading soon!

Recommended for:
 Anyone who enjoys fantasy and strong female leads.  Absolutely everyone who does for that matter.

Get a second opinion:
Things Mean a Lot
The Book Rat
See Michelle Read
Book Harbinger
The Book Smugglers
Chachic’s Book Nook


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  1. Alyssa says:

    I am so happy I could cry! Reading this review gave me chills because I KNOW JUST HOW YOU FEEL! I feel as if I never have words to express my emotions over these books and this author. It’s almost how I feel with Harry Potter, but different. These books literally make me feel like parts of me are being ripped apart. I love and live with the characters unlike any I’ve encountered before. I am eagerly anticipating you reading Son of Shadows, it’s probably my favorite of her “series,” though Heir of Sevenwaters is a close second. Shadowfell was amazing as is Juliet’s way but nothing gets to me like this series. I might have to go re-read them again. Right now.

    • Heidi says:

      I know, right? I hate when I’m like ‘I want to tell everyone how great this book is, but I can’t possibly put it into words!’ It really made me want to pick up Son of Shadows asap. I’ll probably read Shadowfell first though. So good!

  2. Ooooof you have made me really want to read this. It’s so nice when you get a lightning-bolt book that makes you love books again! x

  3. I am a huge fantasy nerd. I even have a blog all about it, and am writing my own fantasy novel ( I picked up this book many months ago (also on the advice of a friend), and for some reason stopped reading it. I don’t really remember why. I think it was one of those times when all the billions of books I was in line for at the library came in all at once and I had too many things to read, so I only got a few pages in to it. But if you’re comparing it to Name of the Wind, which I LOVED, I’ll for sure go pick it back up again. :) Thanks for the recommendation! Have you read any of Brandon Sanderson’s stuff? He’s my current favorite . . .

    • Heidi says:

      I tried reading Mistborn once, but couldn’t get into it. I’ve been meaning to try it again! So many people love that series.

      I hope you do give this one another shot, it is so absolutely wonderful! It IS a slow read. I normally read books in 3 days or so, but this one took me three weeks to get through. It wasn’t boring slow, but it wasn’t a quick paced read for sure.

  4. Amanda says:

    I think you did the book justice. Daughter of the Forest is one of my favorite fantasies and fairy tale retellings, and Juliet Marillier is one of my favorite fantasy authors. It’s such a beautiful story and that’s great you were able to find a new favorite fantasy author. :) I haven’t read this in years, so I think a re-read will ne necessary in the near future, especially after reading your review now haha.

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Amanda! Just writing this review made me want to go reread it, or at least read more Marillier asap. I have no doubt that I’ll be listing her among my favorite fantasy authors from now on!

  5. Angela says:

    I started this one and I don’t recall finishing it… I’ll have to remember it when I hit the library next week! Thanks for the reminder!

    • Heidi says:

      Yeah, it took me a really long time to get through this one because it’s so heavy. A pretty slow read, even though I loved it. I hope you try it again!

  6. […] and video. I reviewed the highly anticipated Throne of Glasss by Sarah J. Maas. I fawned over Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier in a Retro Friday […]

  7. After reading this, yet again, I feel like abandoning everything and starting this book. But it’s epic and a huge series and I’m doing the Rothfuss ones. OH BOTHER, BUNBURY. Seriously, this author sounds right up my alley, perfect for ME. Why haven’t I read her before?

    • Heidi says:

      I think she would be perfect for you! I hadn’t read her before because honestly no one told me to until I started bloggging. And then EVERYONE told me to. She’s wonderful.

      Two reasons to start this series are:
      1) Kingkiller won’t finish publishing for a few years anyway.
      2) These are all companion novels, so unlike Kingkiller you get a full and complete story every time.

  8. bookharbinger says:

    I realize I’m late to thr party, but wow, Heidi. This review took my breath away. I think you put it into words quite nicely. Gaaah. I love this book. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Shadowfell.

    • Heidi says:

      I can’t wait to READ Shadowfell! I’m trying to temper my expectations a bit after Daughter of the Forest as I know most fans don’t like her YA as much, but we’ll see. I loved this book so so much, it’s easily made it into my favorites.

  9. I absolutely love this book. Sadly, I have not read the rest of the series, but I will. Great review. 😀

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Ashley! I loved this one so much. I really want to read the rest of the series, and I’m surprised that I’m not even put out that they’re not all retellings because this one was done so masterfully.

  10. […] also reviewed: Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters 1) Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in Review, Young Adult […]

  11. L.M. Sherwin says:

    This is my favorite novel of ALL time. I cannot even remember how many times I’ve read it, but it has to be a lot. I fully agree with your review. In fact, there probably aren’t scales high enough to rate this book. It is a true masterpiece in all forms.

    • Heidi says:

      Agreed! I’m in utter love with this book, it’s kind of unfair to compare anything else I’ve read this year, because they aren’t on the same scale. Masterful!

  12. jen7waters says:

    My favorite book of all time—JM is a goddess on earth. I’m so happy you found her! <3

  13. […] of The Wild Swans after having read what has become one of my favorite books of all time, Daughter of the Forest, which retells essentially the same tale.  However, I needn’t have worried.  Zoë Marriott […]

  14. […] books in particular seem to be very highly recommended by a great number of the book bloggers whose sites I read. After reading what she has to say about the qualities that make a good heroine today, I’m […]

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.