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Seer of Sevenwaters Hardcover – December 7, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Sibeal of Sevenwaters, the teen fifth daughter of the Lord of Sevenwaters, has always known she wants to be a druid. In this romantic follow-up to 2008's Heir of Sevenwaters, Sibeal's uncle Ciaran, her mentor, orders her to spend a summer on the sheltered island of Inis Eala, away from her training, to determine whether the contemplative life is truly for her. At first, Sibeal thinks that Ciaran is punishing her. Then a sudden storm brings a shipwreck and several mysteries that challenge Sibeal's resolve and vocation. Why does the Norseman Knut seem to be holding something back from the islanders, and if Svala is Knut's wife, why is she so terrified of him? And who is the handsome, amnesiac man Sibeal has found washed up on shore? Readers will thrill to this strong, heartfelt tale of the Sevenwaters family and their magical exploits. (Dec.)
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The reader is thrown headlong into this story with the prologue, a first-person description of a shipwreck. The tale is set in the time of the druids, when Christianity has not yet driven the “old ways” out of northern Europe. A tale as intricate as a Celtic knot is woven between the two main characters, Sibeal and the shipwreck survivor. Sibeal is a young woman, determined to be a druid. She has all but completed her training when she finds the nearly drowned man, who has lost his memory. No details are too small, and altogether, they constitute a clear picture for the reader. As Sibeal struggles to bring the sailor up the beach, the reader will find themselves wishing they, too, could assist. When it becomes clear to the reader and also to other characters in the book that Sibeal has fallen in love, the confusion she feels is very familiar. This romance is sure to hold the attention of any reader fascinated by mythology, Celtic folklore, and druidism. --Rebecca Gerber
Top customer reviews
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This review is full of SPOILERS, because I just don't know how to make my point without using specific examples. I recommend scrolling past if you haven't read the book yet.
I thought it took a long time for the main character to figure out things I thought were obvious. Like that Knut was a lying bastard and that Svala was not his wife, but clearly someone he'd abducted and was keeping against her will. Sibeal, the main character, is a Seer, and it just drove me crazy that it took her forever to figure this out. I was also annoyed, when they finally decided they needed to go on this mission, to rescue possible survivors exiled on an island. The island was Svala's home and she wanted to return. Repeatedly, several people said that the mission had no point at all if these survivors turned out to have died before they get there. Because apparently Svala didn't actually matter to anyone at all. It really made me rather angry, actually, that no one really was advocating for her. She was an afterthought throughout the entire book.
As I said, the love story was weak, and overstated. It was told, repeatedly, rather than shown.
One thing I did enjoy, though, was seeing more of Clodagh and Cathal again. I got really attached to them in the previous book. I was actually really worried the author was going to do something horrible to them. But it looks like she's setting them up for future sequels, and I'm far more interested in their lives than in ever reading about Sibeal again. So, I'll keep buying Juliet Marillier's books forever and ever. I forgive her for writing one weak installment.
One clue to what may have gone wrong can be found in the Acknowledgements. Ms Marillier writes:
"I wrote much of Seer of Sevenwaters while undergoing cancer treatment in 2009."
As one who has seen many friends suffer from cancer (and had a brush with it myself), I know only too well how debilitating it can be.
IMHO, this novel doesn't seem to be quite finished. It reads as a very good draft, promising, but not quite there. As an author myself, I know what a tremendous amount of work it takes to write a novel. And Ms. Marillier, as her admirers and critics say, has set the bar very high.
So what I'm offering in this critique is a few suggestions of how to fix the problems, should Ms. Marillier decide to come out with another edition of this novel. Please DON'T read ahead if you haven't read the novel, as there are SPOILERS in what follows.
PACING: The beginning is too slow, and should be shortened. We don't need to know every detail of Ardel/Felix's recovery. A few, well-chosen scenes should do the trick.
POINT-OF-VIEW: In this novel, the story is told from two points of view: Sibeal/s and Felix's. The trouble with this choice of presentation is that the shift between the voices is jarring. I think the novel would have more focus and a tighter structure if it were told just from Sibeal's point of view. As a seer, she should have no difficulty working out what is going on around her.
PACING: Shortening the beginning would solve another problem that some readers noticed, that it takes forever to figure out that Knut is lying. A group of hard-bitten warriors shouldn't be so credulous. And I agree with someone who said that when the community discovers he's raped Svala, they should be a lot more upset.
VOICE: There is a problem with Sibeal's voice. She sounds too chatty and too girly, especially at the end. I think that her voice should sound a lot slower, with pauses in between for thought. The reader needs to have some idea of what a great seer she is and how awesome (in the old-fashioned sense of the word) her powers are.
MOOD: The devil is in the details, and some details just sounded too modern. One that jarred me repeatedly was when Johnny kept asking everyone he met with to sit down. There weren't too many seats in those days, and in any case it sounds too modern and democratic. I understand that Johnny was running the 9th-century equivalent of a hippie commune, but I think it needed to feel older.
MOOD: Unlike all of her other novels I've read (the Sevenwaters Trilogy and HEIR TO SEVENWATERS) the mood was off. It needed to be much darker.
PACING: As I've observed, the pacing was far too slow in the first part of the novel. The rule of thumb for a writer is to slow the pacing down for moments of great emotional intensity. And only then. There was one place where Ms. Marillier was actually too fast, unusual, because she is a writer who likes slow pacing. That was when Sibeal finally realized that Svalva was a serpent. Instead of TELLING us that she was playing with her paramour, Ms. Marillier should have given us a blow by blow account of Sibeal's gradual realization, followed by shock.
CONFLICT: As others have observed there isn't nearly enough conflict in this book. My suggestions would be to:
Have the island community give Felix a much harder time. One reader remarked that he didn't sound very male. Ms. Marillier could pick up on this and have the men of the community regard him as a wimp.
Felix's idea of having the community rescue three strangers, who have likely died by now, should be greeted with derision and scorn. This is the perfect opportunity to turn Felix into a hero. How does he convince the community that he is right? It should be an uphill struggle. As matters stand, Johnny makes it too easy for him.
Sibeal should not be let of so lightly. She should have Felix disappear for ages, so long that she gives up on him. When he returns and wants her to marry him, she refuses, and goes back to Sevenwaters to take her vows. Something should happen to make her change her mind and go back for him.
PACING: I think the story as written could be fitted into the first half to two-thirds of the novel, with the last third to a half given to Sibeal's intense struggle over her feelings, in which she nearly loses her man.
This is just my 2 cents, of course, but I believe these fixes would elevated this novel to the standards of the other Sevenwaters novels.