Welcome to guest dare! For those new to the feature, our Guest Dare is a monthly endeavor in which we invite an unsuspecting victim to read a book totally outside of their comfort zone. You can read all previous Dare posts HERE.
This month’s victim is the lovely Janice, aka Janicu of Janicu’s Book Blog. We met Janice in person at BookExpo America 2010, persuaded her to pick up far more ARCs than she really needed, and coerced her into doing a guest dare for us. Janice revealed that despite having Juliet Marillier’s first novel on her TBR for ages, she had yet to read her work – and of COURSE we couldn’t allow that to continue. No siree – we demanded right then and there that Janice get off the procrastination pony and read Daughter of the Forest. And what better way to enforce that then an Official Guest Dare?
Author: Juliet Marillier
Publication Date: March 2001
Paperback: 400 pages
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…
Stand alone or series: Book 1 of the Sevenwater Series
Why did we RECOMMEND this book: Are you kidding us? We freakin’ LOVE Juliet Marillier.
For many years (perhaps something like 3) I’ve had Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters Trilogy (technically no longer a trilogy), languishing in my TBR. This is apparently a crime in certain circles. Book blogging circles. Of course the inevitable conversation happened at BEA this year. Angie from Angieville has been nagging me online about certain books I need to read, and you can imagine the conversation when it was discovered that I still hadn’t read Daughter of the Forest. Ana and Thea joined in, and before I knew it, I’d agreed to do a guest dare on the Book Smugglers.
So look at this girls, I READ IT! HAH! Free pass until the next BEA! (Right?)
The Premise: This is a retelling of the fairy-tale of The Six Swans, but set in ancient Ireland. The narrator of the story is Sorcha, who is the seventh child and only daughter in the Sevenwaters clan. Her big brothers Liam, Diarmid, Cormack, Conor, Padraic, and Finbar, are all protective and close, and while their father is distant after their mother’s death, the siblings grow up happy, if a little wild. Their father and his neighbors are at war with the Britons, in particular a family called the Northwoods. Sorcha is aware of this war, but sheltered from it because she’s a girl. To Sorcha, it’s just the reason why her father is often gone and sometimes takes her eldest brothers. Then one day their father returns with a strange woman, Lady Oonagh, who no one likes. This woman has powers which she uses for deliberate harm, but their father is oblivious to any danger, and marries her. Sorcha and her brothers try to mount a defense but all six brothers are turned into swans. Sorcha is alone and unprotected, and has to reverse the curse in complete silence. Then an unlikely protector is sent to her in the form of a Briton.
My Thoughts: Sorcha begins her story with her childhood, growing up in her family’s lands with her brothers. Left mostly to their own devices, the boys and Sorcha focus their individual learning to things that interest them the most. In Sorcha’s case it’s plants and healing. Her oldest brothers, Liam, Diarmid, and Cormack are taught the art of war and fighting and often leave with their father on his campaigns against the Britons, but Conor, Padraic, Finbar, and Sorcha are readers, dreamers, and healers, and stay at home, keeping their household and nearby village running as usual.
It’s established early on that magic is a part of the lives of those living in Sevenwaters. Sorcha and her brothers have great respect for the land and trees. Their lands protect them through some supernatural means, and tales of the fairy folk, who have irrevocably changed a fool or two in the village, are matter of course. That Sorcha can communicate with her closest brother, Finbar through a mental link, or that Finbar can see things happening before they do is not questioned by Sorcha either.
Sorcha’s childhood is relatively uncomplicated but things change. Change, sometimes for the best, sometimes tragic, is an inevitable part of life, and this story spans over three years, so settings and players change around Sorcha in that time. The idyllic days of Sorcha’s childhood disappear when she first begins to understand the price of the war between her people and the Britons. Her first experience with the war is when she tries to help a boy, close to her age, who was tortured by her father’s men. Again things change when Lady Oonagh enters the picture. And again when her brothers are turned into swans. This keeps happening. As soon as I began to get used to Sorcha’s life, something would drastically change in it, which lent a bittersweet tinge to the story. Things happen that you don’t necessarily want to happen. Sorcha loses her innocence; her brothers can’t be there to protect her from attack; she has to leave her home; the evil Lady Oonagh seems to win.
Through out the ordeals that Sorcha must endure in silence, she keeps working on those shirts for her brothers. I think as a reader, I was with her, holding my breath, willing her to keep going despite each setback. By today’s standards, Sorcha is incredibly young (she’s about 12 when she is tasked to save her brothers from their curse), but the hardest thing was knowing that Sorcha must not speak, and I mentally railed against all the people who judged her and made assumptions which she could not counter. The vilest people were those who exploited her silence and her vulnerability in their attacks.
The strength of Sorcha’s love for her brothers is evidenced by her suffering, and she endured herself to me even more because she told herself stories to keep her mind off what she was going through. What reader hasn’t done that?! Storytelling itself is an important aspect in Daughter of the Forest, as comfort to Sorcha, as a tradition, and to convey larger concepts. I loved how this was incorporated into the book, and there was a pivotal scene that involves a story which I want to gush over but can’t for fear of spoilers, but let me say it makes the book.
While Sorcha suffers stoically through this book, it made the positives that happen that much sweeter. Sorcha gets a protector in Red, a Briton who saves her from drowning. He’s a dependable and responsible hero. In his lands, he’s very respected, and although his people are shocked when he brings Sorcha home with him, no one challenges his decision, because he’s never been known to do things wrong. I loved Red! He’s now, hands down one of my favorite heroes. The phrase “still waters run deep” is true in their case, and his relationship with Sorcha is full of quiet but meaningful moments.
I may be a bit different from other bloggers because this dare was for a book I already meant to read, not for a book in a genre I’m uncomfortable with, but thanks guys for pushing me to get this book read. I tend to love a fairytale retelling and this one was wonderful, albeit bittersweet in flavor. It won’t take me so long to get to the next book in this series, Son of the Shadows, I promise.
Overall: If I were to sum up this book in one word, it would be “romantic”. The writing is rich and elaborate, and the story is a fairytale retelling but it’s layered with complexity – with the highs and the lows of human experience mixing with magic and wonder. There was also an element of nostalgia in the storytelling, as if I was looking back to times long past which added another layer of romanticism to a lovely tale.
In the Book Smuggler rating system I would give this an 8 – Excellent.
The author’s website (P.S. Be careful reading the FAQ as it contains spoilers for books after this one!)
Thank you, Janice!!!! We are thrilled that you loved the book – and we’re looking forward to seeing what you think about Son of the Shadows! Don’t make us chase you down and force you…again. *evil laugh*