Source: purchased (paperback).
Genre: historical fantasy/retelling.
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! :)