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!
Title: Daughter of the Forest [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Juliet Marillier [Website|Facebook]
Standing: First in the Sevenwaters series of companion novels.
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.
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Category Adult, Retro Friday, Review | Tags: adult, Celtic mythology, England, fairy tale, family, fantasy, fiber craft, Historical Fiction, Ireland, retelling, Retro Friday, review, romance, The Seven Swans, weaving