Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Review: Heir to Sevenwaters (Sevenwaters, #4) by Juliet Marillier
Title: Heir to Sevenwaters (Sevenwaters, #4)
Author: Juliet Marillier
Rating: 5 Stars
One of my English teachers once told my class that instead of telling her daughter the fairy tales of Disney legend, the classic Snow White and Sleeping Beauty that had the gallant princes arriving to save the day, she'd always change the ending so that the princess saved herself or, better yet, saved the prince too. When her daughter, only a mere seven years old, got cancer, we all visited her - and still do visit her - in the hospital and would help tell stories; stories of women strong enough to fend for themselves and fight back all that life threw at them. Although, after a point, it would be difficult to come up with new tales, I know the story I'm going to tell her when I see her next. The story of Heir to Sevenwaters.
Heir to Sevenwaters is a new leaf from the original Sevenwaters trilogy. Whereas the first three books in this series were full of constant strife and issues such as rape, abuse, and sexual harassment to name a few, the problems Marillier tackles in this installment are far lighter. As always, these books are about the women of Sevenwaters; about the courageous journey these young girls take and the obstacles they manage to overcome, time and time again, despite their plain status. In that regard, this novel is no different. Yet, the oppressive and terrifying presence of the Lady Oonagh is finally lifted and, truly, Sevenwaters seems all the lighter for it. Now, Lord Sean's daughters are growing and the house is a circle of joy for Lady Aisling is expecting again and this time, she is certain that her child is the long awaited son and heir to Sevenwaters.
During this time, Clodagh's twin sister, Deirdre, is set to be married and though the family is concerned for Aisling's old age, health, and the future of her baby, they struggle to maintain a facade of happiness for Deirdre's marriage brings a needed alliance. For the wedding, Johnny has arrived with his men, among them Aidan and Cathal. Aidan and Clodagh met the summer before and, once again, the two are drawn to each other. Cathal, the rude friend of Aidan, however, warns Clodagh away from the handsome man. As Cathal and Aidan continue to stay at Sevenwaters, Clodagh cannot help but notice how strange and distant Calath is. When her younger brother, Finbar, is finally born safely into the world, she becomes the sole keeper of her sibling, helping to care for him while her mother recuperates. All is not well at Sevenwaters, though. Hidden enemies seek to undermine the family and the Fair Folk of the forests have moved on, leaving behind the tricksters. Thus, when Finbar is exchanged with a changeling, Clodagh knows she has no choice but to go into the Otherworld and bring back the true heir. Along the way, however, she will uncover more not only about her companion, Cathal, but also about, surprisingly, herself.
Unlike its predecessors, Heir to Sevenwaters takes awhile to really reach its true plot thread, the journey to the Otherworld, but the novel never lags because of it. Instead, I appreciate that the beginning of this novel is focused on Clodagh and her life in Sevenwaters. Although she is known as the daughter whose sole skill lies in her household duties, as Sevenwaters sinks into chaos, both of a political and emotional nature, Clodagh manages to hold her own and stay strong for her family, remaining a constant rock of support for them. As such, when her journey in the Otherworld proves to be full of challenges, it is not much of a surprise to see Clodagh tackle them. We see her growth both during times of magic, but also during times of difficulty in everyday life. Furthermore, Clodagh is a heroine whose strengths lie in her realistic portrayal. Unlike Liadan, who seems forever strong, Clodagh isn't ashamed to cry or show her fear. Instead, it is her perseverance despite the burdens placed before her that make her such an engaging heroine. While she lacks physical prowess, the burning strength of her heart and her courage more than make up for any shortcomings she may have, making her one of my - if not the most favorite - Sevenwaters women.
And yet, Heir to Sevenwaters would be nothing without its leading man, Cathal. From the beginning itself, Cathal is a slightly shady character. We see his sarcastic tongue emerge and his ominous warnings about his own friend cause us to doubt his character. Nevertheless, as the story progresses, we begin to peel back the layers Cathal so carefully hides under and discover the heart of the man underneath. A man who is tortured and broken, forced to grow up with the belief that he is unloved and constantly hunted by the fey. A man who is powerful and strong, one whose capacity for love is tremendous and whose sacrifices are oft unnoticed. While Clodagh and Cathal slowly, tortuously, fall in love, the perfection of their union is made all the more obvious. While Clodagh sees herself as others see her, as nothing more than the perfect housewife, Cathal is able to see beyond her plain exterior to the incredible woman she is inside. Similarly, Clodagh is willing enough to look beyond the facade that Cathal puts up and see that he is, in every way, her equal. Together, Clodagh and Cathal are able to weather the worst of storms, including the deadly new villain this book introduces. One who is, thankfully, no Disney character like Lady Oonagh but clever and cunning, a true force to be reckoned with. As Clodagh and Cathal race to rescue the baby Finbar, though, their love story unfolds beautifully, one that made my heart beat erratically and swoon more than I can count. In all honesty, I could discuss these two and their never-ending depth for ages, but I hope you will discover it yourselves. Next to Sorcha and Red, these two are the most fleshed-out, well-deserving, and beautiful couple in this series. And I hope this won't be the last I see of them because I am so in love with their love.
Heir to Sevenwaters is the perfect introduction to a new era of Sevenwaters. While far less dark than its predecessors, this series still contains its tell-tale signs of struggle, of pushing its protagonists to their limits and forcing them to discover new, hidden, and stronger parts of themselves. Additionally, old characters are still very much present and it was a pleasant surprise to see Ciaran play such a vital role, both in this book and hopefully in the rest of this new trilogy. Ultimately, Heir to Sevenwaters is the type of fairytale I'd have wanted to hear as a young child; one where a mere Cinderella-esque housewife transforms into a woman who can fend for herself, save the future of her family, and rescue her own prince too.
Summer Series Reading Challenge: 7