Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Daughter of the Forest - Juliet MarillierDaughter of the Forest – Juliet Marillier
Tor Books, 2001

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Sorcha is the seventh child and the only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Growing up without a mother, Sorcha and her brothers share a close bond, even if all of their characters differ. All too soon, their comfortable peace as a family is shattered when Lord Colum falls in love and takes a new wife. This new wife, as the children quickly find out, has enchanted their father. When she encounters only resistance from the children, she decides to bind the brothers by a spell, which only Sorcha may lift. To lift the spell, Sorcha is set a horrible task by the Fair Folk and their queen, in which she can only succeed if she remains silent throughout the whole period it takes to complete it. But when Sorcha is captured by her people’s enemies, the Brits, it becomes more uncertain than ever if she will be able to stick to her promise and save her brothers.

As you might have guessed, Daughter of the Forest is a retelling of the Six Swans fairy tale.

In Daughter of the Forest, a lot of attention is paid to the setting of the tale. What makes this interesting is that it adds a lot of magical feel to the story, as the setting leads Marillier to insert Celtic lore into the story. There are druids, tree spirits, fairy folk, and nature that may threaten or protect.

Moreover, Marillier emphasises the conflict between the Celts and the Britons.  As Sorcha travels between her home and the foreign land of the Brits, the mutual distrust of the two parties come into focus, as do the believes in the other’s barbaric customs. Sorcha, in navigating these two worlds, inevitably challenges assumptions, without taking away from the fear and danger caused by a conflict such as this. Particularly interesting in this regard is the love story in which Sorcha plays a part.

What I loved about this book (and I did love it) was the atmospheric setting, the convincing storytelling, and the inevitable sympathy I felt for Sorcha’s plight. Many have complained about the slow beginning to the tale for the first 150 pages or so. I agree, it was slow, but it worked for me; as Marillier takes particular care to set up the story, I felt I truly became part of this world. Because I was allowed the time to familiarise myself with the strong relationship between Sorcha and her brothers it becomes a little more believable that she would go to such length, and through such cruelty, to save them.

Nevertheless, it was not an easy story to read. I feel that I should mention, despite that it might be considered a spoiler, that Sorcha experiences a particularly brutal rape somewhere in the second part of the story. Made even worse by the fact that she’s on her own and that she’s not allowed to utter a thing as she’s trying to break the curse put on her brothers.

While I often find myself questioning if it was necessary to add rape to any story, I can be found interested in how it is handled. In the case of Sorcha, I think her struggles, as I imagine them to be in real life, to be realistically portrayed. I especially appreciated how her distrust is handled: yes, she is scared of intimacy and men in particular, but it does not turn into an “all men are evil” or a women vs. men tale. When Sorcha expresses her fear of intimacy, this very portrayal is instead discussed.

I liked Daughter of the Forest enough to order the other two books in the trilogy, as well as the book itself as I only took it out from the library, from the book depository. I am not sure when I’ll read the other books, but someday… surely?

I read and reviewed Daughter of the Forest as part of Fairy Tale Friday and my personal Fairy Tale Project. Click over to the hosts of Fairy Tale Friday: Books 4 Learning and Literary Transgressions for more fairy tale themed posts.

Other Opinions: Steph Su Reads, The Allure of Books, Chachic’s Book Nook, Things Mean A Lot, It’s All About Books, Book Harbinger, Working Title, Genre Reviews, One Librarian’s Book Reviews, Stella Matutina, The Book Smugglers, Anime Girl’s Bookshelf,  The Bookling, Nose in a Book, ibeeeg, The Written World, Book Nut.
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7 thoughts on “Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

  1. Alex (Sleepless Reader)

    I remember this book as the first that made me cry in a public transport. I also remember that I wasn’t crying for sadness but because I though a particular scene was the most romantic thing I’d ever read. Major crush on Red!

    This was about 13 years ago… I wonder how I would feel about it now.

  2. Chinoiseries

    I love the Six Swans story, despite the not-quite-perfectly-good ending🙂 Wow. Ok. A rape. I think I’ll need to read Daughter of the Forest to fully understand the part it plays in the whole of the book…

  3. Christina

    This is such a lovely book — I’m glad you liked it! Just so you know, there are at least four more books set in the Sevenwaters world, so it’s not just a trilogy anymore! But I’ve read book #2, Son of the Shadows, and it can definitely stand on its own — no cliffhangers or anything like that. So I’m guessing that, if you want to, you can stop at any point in the series.

  4. aartichapati

    I admit I didn’t really love this book. For some reason, Sorcha really bothered me. She just seemed to be silent and perfect and that annoyed me – granted, that’s how she is in the original fairy tale, but the whole idea of women being quiet and obedient is not one that works for me.

  5. Lu

    This sounds like a book that could go either way for me, but the fact that you love it makes me want to go out and read it right away!


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