Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters #1) by Juliet Marillier
Published in 2002 by Tor Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: historical fantasy/retelling.

My rating:

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…


Daughter of the Forest is one of those books that comes highly recommended and doesn’t disappoint. The recommendations I got (from at least three people) were enthusiastic and insistent but different from your usual sort of hype – Marillier isn’t an author that has received as much hype as Neil Gaiman or Patrick Rothfuss, for example, but she does seem to have very devoted readers. So if you ever recommended this book to me: thank you. I’m glad I listened!

The story has a very Old World feel to it. It’s set in medieval Ireland, where the people of Sevenwaters still cling to the old druidic traditions while Ireland is slowly being Christianised. But it goes beyond that. The plot itself is a retelling of The Six Swans fairy tale, but I’ve read retellings that have a very modern style, for example. Daughter of the Forest is OLD in the sense that it felt like I was reading an old text, or was listening to a storyteller from ages past. It’s really hard to explain, but I loved it.

The writing was denser than usual, perhaps, and more difficult to follow (the tiny print of the mass market paperback did not help), but it dragged me in and hooked its claws into my heart and took a chunk of it when it was finished. Am I being overly dramatic? Perhaps. But I loved the form of this story, its language, and mood (I have to add a trigger warning here, but I’m putting it in white because it is a spoiler, a rather big one but still – you’ve been warned: *spoiler in white* Sorcha gets raped and it’s pretty graphic but this does not overwhelm the story. I dislike it when authors use rape as a plot device to add drama but I felt this was well done. *end spoiler*.

I also have to mention the characters. Since this is a Six Swans retelling, we have the usual players: one sister – Sorcha, who tells the story – and six brothers (she’s the youngest), an evil stepmother, and a bewitched father. But while I loved these Sevenwaters people (Finbar especially, his story … hurts), it was Red, a Saxon man who saves her life (and is saved by her in return), who made this story for me. Look, I won’t go into details because I’m bound to spoil something for you, but he was pretty damn amazing.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series though I’m confused – I thought this was a trilogy, but Goodreads lists 6 titles or more? Anyway, I already made my husband read this and he liked it as well, so it’s man-tested, too (this came out horrible, but you know what I mean). I highly recommend this series to fantasy lovers, especially if you’re looking for something deeper, by which I mean there aren’t many loud bangs or epic fights here (though Sorcha can usually hold her own!), but there are lots of wonderful people.


Have you read Daughter of the Forest? What did you think?

Do you like “old” books or do you prefer a more transparent, modern style?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

  • I used to love The Six Swans story when I was a kid. It was one of my favorite fairytales. And I’ve also heard great things about this book. I did read a YA book by Marillier, Wildwood Dancing, but really didn’t like it. So now I’m nervous to read this one.

    However, I’m so glad that you enjoyed it!

    • I heard that Wildwood Dancing isn’t her best work! And that she writes better adult books. :) So you might want to give her another try if you’re feeling up to some fantasy.

  • I’ve had this book (and author) recommended to me multiple times as well Kaja^^ I hope that 2016 is the year when I’ll finally get my hands on it :D I LOVE old books, especially when it comes to fantasy of course ♥ The old world feel and denser writing style definitely won’t put me off – if anything I’m more excited now that you’ve described it as such XD Lovely review as always! xx

    • Thanks, Micheline! I really, really liked it. And given what I know about your favourite books, I think this one might be a really good fit for you. I hope you get to it and enjoy it as much as I did! :)

  • YES!!! I loved this book so much. You’re right, Juliet Mariliier’s fans are rabid. ;)

    Seriously though, Finbar’s story was so painful. They all were of course, but….damn. Simon’s story was also heartbreaking. I really want to read the next book in the series but at the same time, I’m wary of it because I know it’ll break my heart. Thankfully Marillier always does a good job of putting it back together again! <3

    Completely agree re: spoiler tag. Normally I can't read books that deal with that topic in a graphic way but Marillier does it with sensitivity and skill.

    Red…*swoon* What an amazing guy. Maraia was telling me a while ago that many of Marillier's heroes are mega-swoon inducing, so I'm looking forward to that!

    • Haha rabid just about covers it! ;)

      Oh man yes. Finbar broke my heart. I liked him the best of all her brothers, probably because they spent so much time together and because he had this crazy accurate sense of RIGHT. Poor guy. With the swan family. *weeps*

      YES. I was horrified and my chest felt tight when I read that but Marillier just makes it work somehow.

      I’m a total sucker for good guys, as you probably know, and Red just pushed all the right buttons. <3

  • Maraia

    Eeeeep, this review makes me so happy! You are definitely not exaggerating when you say the book took a chunk out of your heart. It guts me every time. (**SPOILERS** I noticed you didn’t mention Simon – I think his part of the story is the most heartbreaking to me, even though I absolutely love Red and wouldn’t change the ship for anything.)

    The story about the trilogy vs. the longer series is that it started out as a trilogy (and I consider it one), but then years later Marillier decided to write three more. Although they have the same basic setting, the “old” feeling and dense fantasy style you mention are missing. They read much more like modern YA fantasies instead of old-school adult fantasies. I still enjoyed them, but they aren’t of the same caliber.

    I’m so pleased to hear that A liked it as well! I don’t know of any guys who’ve read it, so it’s reassuring. (My dad has read Marillier’s most recent series, but I could never get him to read Sevenwaters.)

    I can’t wait for you to read Son of the Shadows, because it’s my absolute favorite Marillier book.

    • I’m really happy I listened to your recommendation! :) I saw Cait’s post about The Demon King series (is this the right title? Cinda something?) – is that worth giving a try? Btw, I’m currently 1/6 through Queen of Shadows and … it’s dragging a bit. *sigh*

      Oh, Simon. Yeah, I didn’t really know how to mention him without spoilers. His story is tragic and I wanted so badly for it to turn out okay… :(

      Mhm, okay, so I’ll probably read the original trilogy first and then see if I’m tempted to read the rest. I also want to read this newer series of hers, I saw some REALLY good reviews of it. But I’ll finish this one first.

      Oh, you saying SotS is your fave is saying something, given how you rave about her books in general. :D I’ll get to it soon, promise.

      • Maraia

        YES! I adore that series. It’s definitely one that’s best to binge read. I’m hoping to re-read it next year, and I’m curious to see if my opinion changes at all. One cool thing is that it’s set in a matriarchal society.

        I read this comment on my phone this morning and almost had a heart attack because I thought you said Son on the Shadows, not Queen. I don’t know what to tell you about QoS, considering that it was one of my least favorite books of the year. I’m definitely not going to tell you it gets better. :P I’m very much looking forward to your thoughts, though!

        Simon is so sweet. </3

        I still think the later three are worth reading, but that's because I love Marillier so much. Heir of Sevenwaters was my favorite of the three. Do you mean Blackthorn and Grim? It's excellent, you should definitely read it. The Bridei Chronicles might be my next favorite series, although the first one is rough.

        • Wow, that sounds really cool. I just wrote up my challenge post limiting myself to starting one new series after I catch up on three others – and I just decided (based on your glowing rec) that the first new series I start will be this one! I’ll even buy paperbacks so A. will get to read them (he doesn’t have a Kindle yet).

          Yeah I finished QoS. Not my favourite in the series – I already wrote the review and it’s going up sometime soon, probably just after New Year. Eh.

          Son of the Shadows will be read soon, I promise. ;)

          • Maraia

            Eep, I hope you aren’t disappointed after I just talked it up, haha. I really want to re-read it next year, maybe we can do a buddy read. My friend Sarah buddy read them with her fiancé, and he enjoyed them as well.

          • Okay, I’m all for that! I have to finish the Locke Lamora books first though so if you’re in a hurry to re-read them I have to tell you I probably won’t be able to start reading them before March or April… :/

          • Maraia

            I’m not in a rush! I doubt I will have time before then, anyway.

  • I’m so glad you enjoyed this book. Juliet Marillier is one of my favorite authors ever. I believe it was originally supposed to be a trilogy, but she ended up continuing the story with the other three books. All are very good by the way. Son of the Shadows, the next book is tied for my favorite in this series.

    • Ooh, I’m excited to hear that the second book is as good as the first one. So often second books just don’t live up to the beginning of the series.
      And thanks for clarifying that – I’ll probably read the original trilogy first and see it I’m interested enough to read the rest! :)

  • Ah, I love this book! I might be one of those bloggers who was raving because I remember for a while there I was jumping up and down like a maniac getting obnoxiously into everyone’s faces trying to make them read Marillier. Sorry! (Not sorry!) :P I’m so happy to hear you enjoy this though! I loved book two as well and I plan on completing the series.

    • Yep, I think you were one of the top 3 people who told me – multiple times – that I need to read this and I’m really happy I listened! :) I’ve heard good things about book 2, it seems to be a favourite with some people.

  • I need to read this series! I normally love Marillier’s work, so it’s high time I got round to it.

    • I haven’t read anything of Marillier’s previously. I heard this one was a good place to start with her work and I’m glad I picked it, it’s really good. I think you might enjoy it!

  • Jolien @ The Fictional Reader

    I loved this book as well, but it’s been sooooo long since I read it I feel like I’m due for a re-read. I think this is one of the first fantasy series/author I picked up after Harry Potter and Eragon. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! :)

    • Wow, that must have been quite a transition from HP and Eragon to this one! Did you read the sequels, too?
      And yes, I liked it very much, I’m glad I listened to the fans who recommended it! :)

  • See, I keep thinking about buying this series but I never know. Like you said, it is not mentioned as much as other series are so I’m always a bit uncertain, which is stupid, just because people aren’t talking about it doesn’t mean I should read it, but that’s how my brain thinks regardless. I’m glad to hear you can strongly recommend it, although I’m meant to be on a book buying ban of sorts so I almost wish you wouldn’t recommend.

    I will pick this up soon (probably over the Christmas period because I can see a lot of book reading happening over the holidays) and I will let you know my thoughts. Although a 6 book series, this seems like a big undertaking, but I’m almost certain it will be worth it.

    • Ok, sorry, I’m un-recommending this book until your ban is lifted. Then we’ll start over, alright?

      I now heard that the series was first a trilogy and is complete as such but later Marillier decided to write another 3 books which are good but not as wonderful as these three. So I’m going to read the trilogy first and see what happens. :)

      • Thank you, the un-recommendation is appreciated. I will add it to my next batch of books I’m allowed to buy. Buying a series in bulk is counted as one book, right?

        And I hate when authors do that. It’s like The Mortal Instruments series, I read the original trilogy and enjoyed it, then Cassandra Clare went and added more books! I’ll probably do the same as you, read the original trilogy and decide where to go from there.