On the concluding day of Seven Days for Sevenwaters, I’m excited to share a post by Li of Me and My Books. I don’t know if Li even knows this but I’ve been following her blog since my pre-blog days. I loved going to her spreadsheets of books read and seeing the grade she gave them. Li’s hilarious post talks about what kept her from giving Daughter of the Forest a chance and what happened when she finally did.
I can’t quite remember what first prompted me to take a second look at Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters books. I suspect the fact that they kept coming up on lists of romantic fantasy recommendations had something to do with it. As romance + fantasy = my kind of book, I obviously ran out to buy DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST, despite the story having elements that I normally don’t get along with. And by that I mean:
1) It’s a fairytale retelling. Not just any fairytale, but one based on the Grimms Brothers’ Six Swans. I’m not the only one to find their stories on the creepy side, right? Never mind the happily-ever-afters. Hansel and Gretel kill the witch by roasting her alive. Rapunzel’s prince is blinded when leaping out of the tower window to escape the witch. But while retellings aren’t at the top of my to-read list, I kind of love what Juliet Marillier said here when she talks about her inspiration for DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST:
In my story I sought the human dilemmas at the heart of the fairytale, for such tales have at their core the most wondrous and the harshest of human experience, the best and worst of human behaviour. Honour, trust, courage, true love. Treachery, betrayal, cowardice and hatred.
And it’s true. Juliet Marillier doesn’t gloss over the painful parts of the story (and Six Swans was never one of those stories with fluffy white clouds and rainbow unicorns to begin with), and the story has a real emotional punch. You know bad things are going to happen (and they do), but I had total faith that the payoff would be worth it (100x yes). And as for the best of human behaviour… well, Sorcha’s sacrifices for her brothers, their faith in her, her bond with Red – I was hooked from start to finish.
2) It’s historical fantasy (and has a large helping of Celtic names). I’m not a massive fan of fantasy set in “real-world” historical times – partly due to a hangover from school where we spent way too much time memorising dry facts, but also because I get distracted wondering what is real v. artistic licence. Added to this, pronouncing Celtic names isn’t exactly straightforward, and while this may be slightly silly, I like to know that I’m pronouncing the words correctly when I’m reading (silently, I hasten to add). So suffice to say that I wouldn’t have picked up DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST during a random browse in the bookstore.
But once again, I found myself having to rethink my prejudices – and admit that Sorcha’s story would not have worked in another time or place. It’s set early enough in the distant mists of time that the events could have happened. I loved how the Sevenwaters forests came across like a place set slightly apart from the real world, creating this mystical otherworldly atmosphere that made the magic elements feel possible. Though that Celtic pronunciations thing? It was not until the end of the third book that that I realised I’d been (mentally) pronouncing Fainne’s name wrong the whole way through (and suspect I’m not the only one – “How to pronounce Fainne*” is one of the more popular search terms that land people on my blog). Gah.
3) It has a green cover. JOKE. I don’t have anything against green. Honest. But as much as the UK cover for DAUGHTER fits the story (Sorcha and her brothers, misty lush forests, flying swans – yes, yes, and yes), it didn’t really scream “read me” from the shelves**.
But I digress – and really, what I’m saying is that I waited a long time before picking up DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST, because I was convinced that those elements would not work for me. Which was kind of stupid because Sevenwaters is now one of my all-time favourite series.
So if you’re like me, and not keen on fairytale retellings***, historical fantasy, names you can’t pronounce, green covers – well, ignore them and pick up that first book. I’m now wondering what else I’ve missed out on…
*Faun-ya, in case you were wondering
**I did love the UK cover of the fourth book HEIR TO SEVENWATERS, a departure from the style of the first three books. Jon Sullivan did the cover (link to full wraparound image) and trust me, the hardcover is even more striking in real life.
***I’m glad to report the other books are not fairytale retellings. Though I would have read them anyway.
There you have it – if you like romance and fantasy there is no possible excuse that can get in your way of reading Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters series. Thank you, Li! I loved the illuminating Marillier quote you shared and what you said about your misgivings versus the reality of reading Daughter of the Forest. Did any of you have similar misgivings?