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Daughter of the Forest (The Sevenwaters Trilogy, Book 1) Mass Market Paperback – February 18, 2002
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At the heart of this surprisingly accomplished first novel, first book of the Sevenwaters trilogy, is a retelling of an ancient Celtic legend. Marillier's story, however, is much more than a slightly disguised fairy tale. Young Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Irish Lord Colum of Sevenwaters, a domain well protected from invading Saxons and Britons by dense forest where, legend says, fey Deirdre, the Lady of the Forest, walks the woodland paths at night. Colum is first and foremost a warrior, bent on maintaining his lands against all outsiders. Not all of his sons are so bound to the old ways, and that family friction leads to outright disobedience when Sorcha and her brother Finbar help a Briton captive escape from Colum's dungeon. Soon after, Colum brings home a new wife who ensorcels everyone she can't otherwise manipulate. By her spell Sorcha's brothers are cursed to become swans. Only Sorcha, hiding deep in the forest, can break the spell by painfully weaving shirts of starwort nettle--but then Sorcha is captured by Britons and taken away across the sea. Determined to break the curse despite her captivity, Sorcha continues to work, little expecting that ultimately she will have to chose between saving her brothers and protecting the Briton lord who has defended her throughout her trials. Marillier's writing is deft and heartfelt, bypassing the usual bombast of fantasy fireworks for a rich, magical story of loyalty and love. --Charlene Brusso --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Library Journal
As the only daughter and youngest child of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters, Sorcha grows up protected and pampered by her six older brothers. When a sorceress's evil magic ensorcels Colum's sons, transforming them into swans, only Sorcha's efforts can break the curse. Marillier's first novel uses a familiar Celtic legend to tell the story of a young woman's sacrifice for the sake of those she loves and her own discovery of unexpected joy in the midst of sorrow. The author's keen understanding of Celtic paganism and early Irish Christianity adds texture to a rich and vibrant novel that belongs in most fantasy collections.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Daughter of the Forest (DoF) takes an old Irish legend/fairy tale and breathes new life into it. I was not familiar at all with the original version of this story so I cannot comment on how closely it follows but I will say this is not a Disney version of a fairytale. It is dark, painful and horrifying at times but it is also balanced with extreme love, devotion and hope. So even though it breaks your heart DoF will do its best to patch it up again.
- "This hurts, I know. But you have been strong before, and you will be now. What is burned can be replaced; what is destroyed can be made again. In time you will win back your voice. In time—in time, you will find your path back home"
This is not a watered down version of a legend. DoF follows Sorcha over years first chronicling the time she spent growing up with her brothers to the events that led to the curse. It laid the foundation very well for how close Sorcha was to all of her brothers and the strife between the Irish and the English. I really believed how much she loved her brothers and why she would undertake such a large task in an attempt to save them.
Sorcha is not the normal kick-butt heroine that you see in a lot of new fantasy. She has a solid heart, kindness in abundance and a quite determination that she uses to complete her task. She also has a type of subdued magic, not in the sense that she makes spells and such but more natural from a time when people cared about the forest and treated it and the spirits within it with reverence. A time when the realm of Fae was just a wrong turn away and you could easily be caught up in one of their schemes and games.
The magic of the story isn’t overpowering it feels natural and like it is meant to be there instead of forced. I really enjoyed that and thought it fit well with the task that was given to Sorcha to save her brothers from the curse that turned them into swans.
╰⊰✿Everything I Loved✿⊱╮
There is so much that is really wonderful in this story. It is told entirely from Sorcha’s PoV and sometimes that doesn’t work for me in fantasy but it made this story feel all the more personal. I connected with Sorcha right away and saw how she grew from an innocent giving child who knew nothing about the true dangers of the world into a resilient young woman who sacrificed much of her childhood to save the brothers that she was so close to.
When Sorcha started her task she was but a child still and even though she knew a lot about healing, she really didn’t understand how long it would take her to complete her task or any of the other obstacles that would get in the way of that. The Fae had a plan set into motion for her and although not all of the pieces clicked together right away you could see how each obstacle set in her path shifted and changed her into the woman she was destined to become.
For part of the story she is completely isolated and the story was a little slower for me through this section as I felt all the loneliness that Sorcha was feeling. I liked the story much more once she found a companion and protector in Red.
-- “Take this to light your way, daughter of the forest,” she said. “You told me you were tired of being strong. Maybe you will not need to be so strong, now.” She placed a tiny around candle, herb scented, in my open hand. She turned to the Briton. “You hurt her with your unthinking words,” she said, and her eyes had lost any warmth they had once had. “Make sure she is not hurt again.” And before he could draw breath, she turned and was gone.
Red made this story for me. He is EVERYTHING I love in a good hero. He is the epitome of a quixotic character. He is noble, kind and stoic. He is a man that is strong and can be counted on in any situation and I ADORE HIM. When he found Sorcha she had been beaten down and broken possibly even close to giving up, but Red is patient and so respectful to her even though she is technically one of the enemy. Red never sits too close, he learns to listen to Sorcha’s body, face and eyes to learn about her. He takes the time to really get to know her and even though she cannot speak he learns to hear her. The story of their time together is beautiful, frustrating, hopeful and probably every other emotion in-between.
-- "Here I am telling tales, and half believing them. For I think sometimes that you, too, will go back one day, hear the call of the sea and slide away under the water as Toby’s mermaid did. Or maybe one night, as I watch outside your window, I will see an owl fly out and vanish into the forest; and when I look for you, all that will be left is one small feather on your pillow."
Sorcha has many other dealing with people and those never go as smooth but she did find a few friends besides Red in a land of enemies and they were all wonderful. There are also quite a few people to despise and hate along the way for their cruelty and bias against Sorcha. The fact that she isn’t allowed to speak at all while completing her task made me even more frustrated for her.
There was so much TENSION that built and built and I really wasn’t sure how things would end up. I had a lot of hopes but I was left with so many doubts and I could just see things ending tragically. This is not a traditional HEA story which actually made me love it more in some ways. There are some areas that had true happiness and others that didn’t get the resolution that you might expect. I really liked that not everything was tied up with a nice bow at the end. It made everything in this seem so much more real.
There are a few things that really worked in the story but that I didn’t love due to the nature of them. I will discuss those below. Please note they may be spoilerish in details.
╰⊰✿Warnings and Cautions✿⊱╮
There will be a few spoilers (the general ones are not marked because they are part of the warning)
Like I mentioned before This is not a Disney Version of a Fairytale meaning there are some extremely graphic scenes of violence and abuse. I completely understand why these are in the story and I think the author did a fantastic job with them and how they affected the character. They aren’t thrown in just to build drama they really did serve the story and really showed Sorcha’s dedication to her task and everything she had to go through to complete it.
I’m really sensitive to two things in books. The first is Rape and the second is animal deaths. This story had both of those and I’m not going to lie they were rough….really really rough. But they served a really large part of the story. Those events changed who Sorcha was and really showed how strongly she was willing to fight to complete the task and save her brothers. The way she interacted with people and trusted was forever changed and it actually added to the love story the way that Red was so patient with Sorcha and how well he tamped down his own emotions and wants in an effort to never scare her and gain her trust. DID I MENTION I LOVE ❤RED❤
I’m so glad that it was never swept under the rug. I think it showed a real account of how someone rebuilds her life after an event like that. My one and really only complaint is that while the rape scene was really graphic the very much later scene involving sex was not quite fade to black but pretty close. I would have liked to see a little more of that transition and how it was dealt with by the couple.
The other thing that was a little over the top for me was the villain Richard. He is aweful and does some absolutely horrendous things to Sorcha, but it is more mental abuse than physical. Still it was really difficult at times to read those parts, as intended but non-the-less he is very graphic in some of his mental abuse as well.
╰⊰✿You Should Still Read This✿⊱╮
Even though there are some rough patches this is still a highly entertaining story that will tug at all your heart strings. I have thought about multiple sections of this story repeatedly over the last few weeks and have even gone back and reread some of my favorite sections. It is a truer story than most where not everything is handed to you, at the end there are still questions in my mind and I think about the characters and where their paths led them.
If you, like me, are a fan of Melina Marchetta, like stories with complicated paths or can be happy with a story that isn’t all rainbows and sunshine then this is probably something that you will enjoy.
Marillier's writing here is simple yet heartfelt, expressing Sorcha's tangled emotions with ease. The romance between Sorcha and Red is also masterfully handled; it's slow-building yet intense, without overpowering the plot. My only critique is that the long chapters (30+ pages on average) made reading this book feel like a marathon. Yet I felt for Sorcha so deeply and savored the undercurrents of Celtic paganism that set this book apart from other fantasy novels I've read. If you're a fan of Ursula K. Le Guin or enjoy a dash of folklore in your fantasy, you really should consider Daughter of the Forest. I'm already looking forward to the rest of the Sevenwaters Trilogy, as well as the rest of Marillier's repertoire.
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