Monday, December 17, 2012
Review: Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters, #1) by Juliet Marillier
Title: Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters, #1)
Author: Juliet Marillier
Rating: 5 Stars
Incredible. I know I've said I've been speechless when reading books before, but this time, I genuinely don't have the words to express what a masterpiece this novel is. I actually finished this novel early today morning, at around 1:30, but it was only at 2:30-ish that I actually got up to go to sleep. I couldn't get this story out of my head; I simply kept thinking about it. If Juliet Marillier hadn't already made a fan out of me with Heart's Blood, then I'd be tripping over myself to fall at her feet for truly, this book is remarkable.
Daughter of the Forest is known to be one of the best fantasy novels out there, but it's hard to believe just how good it is until you read it. From its cover, it seems to be a simplistic fairy tale re-telling, but it's a fairy tale like no other. We don't have any knights in shining armor; instead, the princess has to save herself. We don't have an innocent girl for whom circumstances clear up and solve her problem; we have a broken girl who has to struggle to find happiness. Sorcha is the youngest of seven children, six of whom are boys. Thus, she has grown up sheltered, loved, and cared for by her siblings. When her father re-marries, however, bringing Lady Oonagh, a deadly sorcerer, into their peaceful abode, Sorcha's life is turned upside down. Lady Oonagh turns her beloved brothers into swans and the only way for Sorcha to break the spell is to weave six shirts made of a prickly nettle and remain silent for her entire ordeal. It is only when the shirts have been made and worn by her brothers that the spell will be broken, but the journey that Sorcha will embark on will change more than just her future, it will change her very being and shatter her to her core.
Daughter of the Forest starts out slowly, introducing us to Sorcha, her world, and her close relationship with her brothers. Thus, when her brothers are turned into swans, we, as readers, feel just as much pain as Sorcha herself. I could feel myself visibly wincing every time Sorcha was reminded of her past life with her brothers, full of happiness and delight. Daughter of the Forest is a dark tale. A very dark tale. I sobbed for a solid five minutes at one point in this story because of the utter horror of the situation. Yet, despite all the darkness, there is a subtle undercurrent of hope, of happiness, of love. It's all so beautifully interwoven that one cannot help but be reminded of life itself with its ups and downs and darkness and light.
You see, Daughter of the Forest is a painfully realistic tale. Sorcha has an incredible trove of inner strength. I admire her immensely and she's one of those heroines I'll never forget. I could simply be in the supermarket having a bad day and Sorcha is one of those protagonists who will come to mind and I already know I'll tell myself, "If Sorcha could go through all that, I can get through today." Sorcha isn't a saint - she's only human and that is felt so palpably despite the ordeal she manages to go through. Thus, despite the seemingly amazing feats she manages to achieve, Marillier weaves this tale in such a way that she is able to convey that each and every one of these ordeals is possible to overcome, just as anything is with the right dose of love, faith, and perseverance.
Nevertheless, one of my favorite aspects of this novel is, hands-down, the romance. If Marillier is the Queen of Slow Burn Romance, I am the Glutton of Slow Burn Romance. I can't get enough of it and Marillier writes it to pure perfection. What I loved about the romance in this novel, particularly, is the fact that it manages to happen all without Sorcha uttering a word. Somehow, against all odds, Sorcha manages to find someone who understands her very soul, who sees her task as a brave ordeal she is facing, and who can understand her with little difficulty, despite her silence. Furthermore, Sorcha never even realizes that she's falling in love. As the reader, we can see this romance unfold in front of our eyes, but Sorcha's task remains to be the main plot thread, until eventually, Sorcha comes to realize the love she had and how, despite not realizing it before, she needs the very presence of her lover to calm her. For, to be in love isn't necessarily to crave physical affection or even understanding, but often, it comes from the most basic, innocent, and true primitive instinct of needing that other person's presence and strength by you. It is this that Marillier manages to embody so beautifully within this novel and I can't get enough of it.
Daughter of the Forest is a dark, emotional, and achingly bittersweet fantasy like no other. It is one that kept me on the edge of my seat with a box of tissues within the grasp of my hand and a warm blanket draped over me. It's one of those stories that continues to plague you long after you've read it as you marvel over both the author's creativity and skill along with the characters and their complexity. I can't recommend this book enough, but really, everyone should read this. Everyone. Like all fairy tales, Daughter of the Forest contains a trove of themes and lessons and Marillier conveys all this in a subtle and beautiful manner that touches and stays with you like nothing else quite does. Truly, if there's one book you should make yourself read before you die, it's this one.