Retro Friday Review: Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier


September 14, 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!

Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier book coverTitle: Son of the Shadows [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Juliet Marillier [Website|Facebook]
Standing: 2nd in the Sevenwaters series
Genre: Fantasy
Published: May 18th, 2001 by Tor Fantasy
Format: Paperback; 590 pages
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Spoilers!: You can technically read Son of the Shadows as a stand alone without having read Daughter of the Forest, but seriously, why would you?! As such, there are only very minor spoilers for the first book in the series here.

Beautiful Sorcha is the courageous young woman who risked all to save her family from a wicked curse and whose love shattered generations of hate and bridged two cultures.

It is from her sacrifice that Sorcha’s brothers were brought home to their ancestral fortress Sevenwaters, and her life has known much joy.

But not all the brothers were able to fully escape the spell that transformed them into swans, and it is left to Sorcha’s daughter Liadan to help fulfill the destiny of the Sevenwaters clan. Beloved child and dutiful daughter, Liadan embarks on a journey that shows her just how hard-won was the peace that she has known all her life.

Liadan will need all of her courage to help save her family, for there are dark forces and ancient powers conspiring to destroy this family’s peace–and their world. And she will need all of her strength to stand up to those she loves best, for in the finding of her own true love, Liadan’s course may doom them all . . . or be their salvation.


Seven Days for Sevenwaters banner

In case I haven’t mentioned Seven Days for Sevenwaters quite enough in the past week, here’s one more tip of the hat to the lovely event that Holly has put together.  If you love Juliet Marillier, Sevenwaters, or just want to know what all of the fuss is about, stop on by to read posts from me, Angie, Chachic, and Michelle (with more to come!).


Son of the Shadows is the second book in Juliet Marillier’s captivating Sevenwaters series.  If you had told me several months ago that any book would measure up to the immediate love I felt for Daughter of the Forest I wouldn’t have believed it.  Son of the Shadows was probably a great book, sure, but just as good?  Really?  I wouldn’t believe it.  Until I read it and I had no choice but to face facts: Son of the Shadows is every bit the masterpiece that Daughter of the Forest was.  Rather than attempting to capture the same air and emotions, Son of the Shadows managed to grab my heart in ways that Daughter of the Forest had not.  Where there had been delayed gratification, now there was a consistent struggle of mind and body, where there had been trust and a definite purpose, now there was uncertainty and defiance.  And yet, both books contained a steadfast hope that warms my heart to think on, and a breathtaking romance that I will forever adore.

Liadan, the daughter of Sorcha and Red, combines her parents’ best qualities to create a stalwart heroine that is not to be trifled with.  She has her father’s strength and patience coupled with her mother’s (and uncle Finbar’s) talent for healing the mind and body.  She is exactly the combination the Fair Folk have been hoping for, only her choices prove her characteristics have manifested in ways most unpleasing to what those who shepherd prophecy would prefer.  There are times when she despairs that she is only another powerless woman in a world full of unthinking men, and yet she refuses to give in.  I love Liadan for her unapologetic strength and desire to earn what she wants from life–not take what life others would give to her.

Son of the Shadows reveals an old shadow over Sevenwaters, one we only now begin to see was there long before the Lady Oonagh worked her evil magic in Daughter of the Forest.  Here we are able to see how this family was not ripped apart one generation prior, it has been slowly fraying for generations past.  The family of Sevenwaters love one another deeply, but despite their love they struggle for trust in one another.  Trying to shield those you love can hurt them as much as it could help, and simple actions have dire consequences beyond your imagining.  While the idea of a truth that cannot be spoken was quite literal in Daughter of the Forest, the theme is retained with a much more sinister air in Son of the Shadows.  It is one thing to be unable to speak, and another entirely to choose not to.  Son of the Shadows is as good example as any that life isn’t as simple as it is in the tales.

I can hardly discuss my love for Son of the Shadows without discussing the romance.  If you like your mystery, feel free to skip ahead, but I feel this is the driving force behind the entire book, and thus cannot go unmentioned.  Friends, I loved Bran.  The Painted Man who is both terror and hope, who has suffered to the point that he no longer recognizes suffering, he only sees it as his place in the world.  Liadan’s love for him comes about unexpectedly, for he is a hard man to love.  A man with no past, no future, and a present only in the harsh moments he chooses as his due.

“You don’t have to do this alone you know.”

Brighid help me.  I was suddenly overtaken by the most profound sadness.  Arrogance, scorn, indifference I could deal with.  Quiet competence was just fine.  Arguing with him was almost enjoyable.  It was the unexpected words of kindness that threatened to shatter me in pieces.

Liadan is for Bran the balance that no other person could provide.  When most of us would be shaking him and calling him an idiot for not seeing what is right before his eyes, Liadan is patient and careful as one is with an injured animal, which is sort of what Bran is.  Also, I have to mention, I love that in both Daughter of the Forest and Son of the Shadows there is a seemingly nameless character that is given a name by the one destined to love them.

Once again I was drawn to love the family of Sevenwaters, Liadan and her siblings, but the highlight of this book for me was Bran’s tribe of Painted Men.  The outcasts of every land with no past and no stories of their own who look only to take care of one another and guard those they may call friend if only they are given the chance.  As it is clear that the children of Sevenwaters know only one way to love–deeply, it is clear in both the light and shadows of this story that they are not the only ones.

Son of the Shadows is, without a doubt, one of my favorite books I have ever read.  There are pages I have already read enough times to have lost track, and I know I must obtain a copy of my own as soon as possible so as not to incur massive library fines.  If you’ve been wondering if you can go on after taking in the beauty of Daughter of the Forest, take this as my assurance that you can–it will be worth it.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: This isn’t even a legit question with this series, of course I will…hopefully with less of a gap than I had between the last two!  I feel like the overarching storyline of a trilogy was hinted at in the first book, but not yet definite (likely Marillier was uncertain is she’d have the opportunity to continue the series as is fair for debut authors *chortles at the notion that this series would not continue*), but this book leads me to want to finish up the prophecy very much!

Recommended for: Everyone. In particular fans of strong women in fantasy, atmospheric prose, absolutely meant to be romance, Stockholm Syndrome, and thumbing your nose at prophecies.

Get a second opinion:
Book Harbinger
The Book Rat
Chachic’s Book Nook
See Michelle Read
Steph Su Reads

I’ve also reviewed:
Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters 1)
Shadowfell (Shadowfell 1)


If you liked that you might like this:


  1. Michelle says:

    Wonderful review! And AMEN to the Painted Men!! They really do give this book so much heart (aside from that beautiful love story of course)! So happy to see you sharing the love.

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Michelle! I did chortle a bit when you called them the Merry Painted Men in your guest post for Seven Days for Sevenwaters. It’s so the perfect description! I adore them so much, I’d totally let them raise my baby.

  2. VeganYANerds says:

    You have totally sold me on this series, I just need to a. find the books at my library (hopefully) and b. make time to read them!

    I love the sound of Liadan and I think her name is awesome!

    Also loving the new blog layout! I feel like I said that the other day but it must have been a temp. layout 😉

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Mandee! I think when you saw it the other day I was still working on getting the header up.

      I’m so excited for you to read these, they’re phenomenal, I hope your library has them! They are door stoppers though, about 600 pages or so–which is a lot in a read adult book for those of us who get used to reading at YA pace. 😛

  3. I just want to cry. I am so glad that you loved this book as much as I do. I am pretty sure that Bran is my number one literary husband. I seriously have ALL THE FEELS when I read about him and this book just breaks and mends my heart. I can’t even put it into words but you GET IT, amiright?!

    Also the band of men who raise Johnny? DIES.

    Anywhooo…I am re-reading these so very soon.

    • Heidi says:

      I know, I freaking LOVE the Painted Men! They could totally raise my baby. I did love this one so so much, I still think about Bran and Liadan constantly. I do think I enjoyed DotF a wee bit more, but that’s just because of my love for delayed gratification for which that book is the pinnacle. And yes, I GET IT, which makes me very happy. So excited to read CotP now and finish this storyline out.

  4. Simone says:

    I came to you via Angie and I really like your review. This book is one of my alltime favourites!
    I also like to font you used for your quotes – could you mail me the name?
    Thanks and regards,

  5. Angiegirl says:

    First of all, love the new layout!

    Second of all, “You don’t have to do this alone you know.” Unnff. THAT WHOLE ENTIRE SCENE.

  6. Aw yay! I am glad that Son of the Shadows worked out as well as Daughter of the Forest did for you! I hope Child of the Prophecy works out just as well! I agree that Liadan is another great heroine and her relationship with Bran is wonderful. When I read those three books, but liking actually went down with each book (but I mean I still loved them all). I do think a reread is in order after all these years because I’m foggy on the details.

    When you mention it sounded like Marillier was setting up a trilogy, I just wanted to say I really think she was. I just have this strong memory that it was originally a trilogy when I read those books long ago. Not that I’m complaining it’s longer.

    • Heidi says:

      Yep, it was originally intended as a trilogy! I (obviously) haven’t gotten beyond that point yet, but I know the first three books are a set and after that the stories take place much later. I actually picked up Child of the Prophecy at the library this afternoon! I did love Son of the Shadows, but if I had to pick, I would say that I liked Daughter of the Forest more. My expectations aren’t as high for Prophecy, but I’m still thinking I’ll really enjoy it! :)

  7. […] Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier (Library) [Amazon|Goodreads] Between finishing Son of the Shadows and loving Holly’s Seven Days for Sevenwaters, I can’t and won’t wait very long […]

  8. Holly says:

    Awesome review, as always. I think the fundamental differences you pointed out between DotF and this were spot on. I have to agree with you – I think I slightly prefer DotF but this is so great as well I often have a hard time admitting that to fellow fans. I think some of it is the strength it took Sorcha to literally not speak. And Red. What they have is so hard earned.

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Holly! Yes, I think my slight preference for DotF feels the same as yours. I was happy for and loved Bran and Liadan, and they didn’t have it easy, but at the same time in comparison to Sorcha and Red, they really did. I just love Red so much. I love how patient and kind he was, and how well he understood and knew Sorcha even though she never spoke a word. But again, slight preference because I really loved both of these books. 😀

  9. Chachic says:

    If you had told me several months ago that any book would measure up to the immediate love I felt for Daughter of the Forest I wouldn’t have believed it.

    I felt the same way when I first read and fell in love with Daughter of the Forest! And yep, it was a happy moment when I was proven wrong. LOVE Liadan and Bran. Your review is making me wish I had my copies of the Sevenwaters here with me. Sigh, I miss my bookshelf back home.

    • Heidi says:

      I know, right?! This is a must own kind of series, I have Daughter of the Forest, but the other books being at the library is just too far away. I feel ya on bookshelves being too far away too! All of mine are still at my parent’s house in Wyoming because it’s really hard to move stuff across country, and sometimes I desperately want a book that’s there.

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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.