May 6, 2008

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Set in ancient Ireland, Daughter of the Forest is the story of Sorcha. Sorcha’s father is Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Her mother died shortly after giving birth to her, and as a result her father became an emotionally restrained man who barely pays any attention to her. She was brought up by her six older brothers, to all of whom she is very close. Things at Sevenwaters begin to change when Lord Colum unexpectedly brings home a woman he introduces as his bride-to-be. The Lady Oonagh is a mysterious woman who possesses strange powers, and she makes her dislike for Lord Colum’s children known in increasingly chilling ways. Then one day, she casts a spell over Sorcha’s brothers that only Sorcha can lift – but at what cost?

Daughter of the Forest uses plot elements of the Six Swans fairy tale, but there is a lot more going on in the story. The conflict between Celtsand Britons, for example, is an important part of the plot. The mutual distrust between both sides is exacerbated with the British occupation of the Celtic Holy Isles. Both sides regard the other as strange, savage and cruel, and part of what this story is about is questioning this distrust and learning to see one’s enemy for what he is: another human being.

Another prominent theme is the importance of stories, of myths – there are several instances in which Sorcha tells another character a story from Celtic mythology. The book is also full of references to tree lore, old Druidic traditions, the Fay Folk, and bewitching forests.

I absolutely loved this book. I stayed up very late one night finishing it, and that hadn’t happened to me in a very long time. Also, even though I know the fairy tale and thus knew more or less how things would turn out, there were times when I was so anxious for Sorcha I had to resist the temptation to peek ahead – and bear in mind that I pretty much never feel that temptation.

There is nothing like the pleasure of losing yourself in a rich, detailed story, and this book provided just that. What can I say, I’m a sucker for Celtic settings, and even though recently that kind of novel has become common enough for Celtic fantasy to be called a subgenre, I think that Daughter of the Forest is hard to top.

I really liked how the relationship between Sorcha and her brothers was portrayed. Their bond was real, and this made Sorcha’s sacrifice on their behalf much more believable and easier to relate to. I also liked how the romance was also real, how it was developed slowly, how the story didn't follow the unfortunately common love-at-first-sigh path.

Plus, the book avoided a pitfall that you sometimes find in stories with strong female protagonists that supposedly have a feminist edge – it didn’t try to put men and women in opposition, it didn’t stress their differences instead of their common ground. And of course that reinforcing gender stereotypes under a different guise is not what stories should do, so I’m never happy when I come across that. But even though Daughter of the Forest is a story about a strong young woman who is hurt by men, it is not a story in which women and men are enemies, or are different beyond conciliation.

My only complaint, if you can call it that, is that at the end of the book some questions linger, but this is, after all, book one in a trilogy, so I suppose that the next one will provide the answers. My edition has an excerpt of the first chapter of Son of the Shadows, which is about the next generation of the Sevenwaters family. I can’t wait to read it.

Other Blog Reviews:
Stella Matutina

(Let me know if I missed yours)


  1. I have this in my TBR. Actually I 'borrowed' it from my 14 year old's bookcase. I'll have to move it in my mental list. Thanks

  2. Well, first of all, another beautiful review...another book added to my wish list. Secondly, SLOW DOWN! LOL You are just a reading dynamo these days, aren't you?!! Pretty soon my wish list is going to graduate from mere novel length right into an honest-to-goodness chunkster!

  3. I've read all three of these (I bought them for my mom for Mother's Day a few years ago), and I don't know why I didn't recommend them to you! *slaps head* Anyway, each book in the trilogy deals with a different generation, and just to give you a bit of warning I loved the first one the most. They're all great though!

  4. Once you mentioned it being about stories you had me convinced. I love books about books and/or books about stories/myths/folklore. I have always wanted and excuse to pick up the version of this book with the beautiful Kinuko Y. Craft cover and now I have it!

  5. Great review. I've just recently fallen in love with books of this type thanks to you and all the others who keep bringing these wonderful books to my attention.

  6. Yay I was hoping you would fall in love with this as much as I did. There is a fourth book due out soonish in the series too so I get to revisit Sevenwaters when it comes out. I hope you enjoy her other books as much as this one :)

  7. Celtic folklore... Now, that's a new area that I have to explore in my reading. :] You just simply blew me away with this review. Ah, you just keep giving me new reasons to add to my to-be-read list!

  8. Sounds wonderful! Another one to add to the tbr list.

  9. I loved this series, too! Enjoy the rest of the books!

  10. Nymeth, you've written another great review, as usual. :)

    I'm glad to hear you enjoyed reading this. I had a great time reading it too. I think the story is so beautifully woven.

  11. Boy, the cover of this one alone would be enough to get me to pick it up but your review has certainly put it on my must get list. It sounds lovely. Thanks for a great review.


  12. Yesssss! This sounds wonderful! I love this newer adult fairy tale genre, don't you?

  13. Nymeth - where do you find out about these fabulous books? Speaking of cliffhangers, hubby and I watched The Golden Compass last night (wondering if it would have been better understood having read His Dark Materials), but I couldn't believe the ending! I've seen cliffhangers before--but not like that!

  14. Lovely, lovely review as always. Enough to tease us into a "Oh gee, I want to read this and be captivated by the story, the words, the magic and where's my wallet I need to go out and see if this one's on the shelves" mode.


    And the cover looks lovely too!

  15. I, too, am a sucker for anything Celtic. Even though it's now a subgenre, finding really great Celtic fiction seems to be a bit challenging for some reason.

    I've been noticing the way women and men relate in books I've been reading. It was really interesting to read your comments about the women and men being able to work together. I also liked the thought of recognizing an enemy as a human being.

  16. Kylee, hope you enjoy them!

    Debi: I confess, this one got read so fast at the expense of sleep. But that's an exception, not the rule, I promise :P

    Eva: I've been told that the first one is the best before...but the others still sound very enjoyable :)

    Carl: Isn't that cover great? And yes, I'm a sucker for stories about stories as well.

    Lisa: It's what book bloggers are for :P

    Rhinoa: Thanks again for recommending this one. I didn't know there would be a fourth book in the series. That's exciting news!

    Orchidus: Me too, actually...I recognized very few of the stories that were retold in this book. I mean, I knew the names of the heroes and heroines, but that was pretty much it. I keep eyeing Lady Gregory's Complete Irish Mythology...I should pick it up soon.

    Nicola, I hope you enjoy it :)

    Somer: I think I will!

    Melody, thank you :) I completely agree, it is beautifully woven.

    CJ: Yes, isn't the cover beautiful? I hope you enjoy it when you pick it up :)

    chartoose: I really do!

    Trish: This one was recommended to me by Rhinoa. You know, I haven't seen The Golden Compass movie yet, but I heard that they left the last 3 chapters of the book out so that the ending wasn't too much of a cliffhanger...and yet it still is! Anyway, I hope that you decide to pick up the books!

    Lightheaded, thank you :) I really think you'd enjoy this one!

    Rachael: From what you said, I really think you'll enjoy this book!

  17. "There is nothing like the pleasure of losing yourself in a rich, detailed story, and this book provided just that."
    ...I'm sold (again) - another beautiful review

  18. Ken, thank you :) I hope you enjoy this one!

  19. Wonderful review! I'm so glad I added you to my Google reader so I can stay up to date on your reviews! I added this one to my TBR.


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