Sibeal, the latest druid-in-training from the Sevenwaters family, does not understand why her tutor Ciaran has sent her to the remote, warrior training island of Inis Eala for the summer. Since she turned twelve her entire life has been dedicated to learning the spiritual ways of the nemetons; in fact at sixteen she already hears the voices of the gods. Surely she is ready to take the druidic pledge of lifelong service and celibacy now. So why the delay? Surprisingly it would only take one day before what looked to be a quiet, uneventful summer spent with her married sisters Muirrin and Clodagh would turn into quite the opposite. When a ship wrecks not far from Sibeal’s view on the rocky shore, she’s off to help the survivors in any way she can in what will be a summer of mystery, adventure and discovery. Blond-haired, expert Norse fighter Knut and terrified, mute and beautiful Svala are an enigma in themselves, especially when Sibeal senses a third survivor – a young man barely older than herself – come in with the tide, clinging to life. When he finally comes to, Felix has no memory of his past but Sibeal knows he survived by the very will of the gods. Furthermore a runic divination tells her that both Sibeal and Felix are to be part of a future seafaring mission, but to accomplish what, she knows not. As Sibeal’s singular attachment to him grows, the inner conflict between her feelings and her duty worsens. All comes to a head when she faces not only the perilous physical danger of their mission but the impossible choice between Felix and her very soul.
To say that I didn’t have high expectations for this book would be denial. Seer of Sevenwaters is the latest addition in one of my favorite series, written by my favorite author, and a book I’ve been anxiously awaiting all year long. Juliet Marillier just has some hold over me I suppose. In every book of hers I’ve read, the writing is consistently pure magic and the storytelling divine. Even though I’ve read and loved all of her other series written for adults, Sevenwaters is where it all started and takes the cake. So it was with a mixed sigh of relief, comfort, and delight that I sat down to read Seer after my copy arrived in the mail.
While Marillier’s later, standalone Sevenwaters novels are by nature different than the original trilogy, I was held spellbound by Seer from the beginning. The remote, stormy, and ominous setting of Inis Eala set a sublime, mysterious tone befitting any Sevenwaters book. Although it’s hard not to miss the lake and forest of Sevenwaters, the focus on sea folklore was just as beautifully written as well as being new and refreshing. Perhaps more importantly deeply spiritual, intuitive Sibeal is the kind of character to whom I connected immediately. I initially attributed this to having deeply rooted spiritual beliefs and an introspective, pondering personality but the core of her internal struggles – the battle between heart and mind – is universal. The other half of the book’s POV is Felix, who by himself is an interesting character. His philosophical personality is a welcome addition to Marillier’s usual fighter, farmer, or merchant male protagonists. Felix complements Sibeal well as he sees past her cold exterior to a young woman with warm feelings and strong passions. The obstacles Sibeal and Felix must overcome may seem less grave than what was heaped upon Red and Sorcha or Bran and Liadan but their relationship felt just as hard-won and heartfelt nonetheless. On top of it all there’s promising ground laid for an inevitable Cathal/Mac Dara showdown in future books and a glimpse of Painted Man Gull from Son of the Shadows which are sure to please. Overall Seer of Sevenwaters is a very worthy and satisfying installment to the series which continues the impossibly high standard Marillier has set for historical fantasy.
The Book Smugglers Review