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Wildwood Dancing (Wildwood Dancing Series) Paperback – March 25, 2008
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"Strong characters, two fully realized settings, and a fast-moving plot guarantee that readers will be spellbound by this page-turner."
About the Author
- Lexile Measure : 770L
- Grade Level : 7 - 9
- Item Weight : 13.6 ounces
- Paperback : 407 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0375844740
- ISBN-13 : 978-0375844744
- Product Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.91 x 8.38 inches
- Publisher : Knopf Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (March 25, 2008)
- Reading level : 12 - 15 years
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #205,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The Plot: Wildwood Dancing is a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy-tale. The main character, Jenica, is responsible for looking out for her four sisters while their father is away from the castle for health reasons. Jena struggles to maintain control with her domineering cousin, Cezar, attempting to seize control. Cezar is deeply troubled by the loss of his elder brother, Costin, who is believed to have been taken by the folk that dwell in the mysterious forest. Cezar is determined to hunt down and kill all of the folk of the Wildwood to avenge his brother's death. This is problematic for Jenica and her sisters because they have visited the realm of the Other Kingdom for years, since they were children, and have come to regard the Wildwood folk as an extension of their family.
What I love about this book: First of all, Marillier understands that a heroine can be strong without wielding a sword and marching off to war. Her female characters are strong of heart and conviction. Jenica is strong in that she would do anything to protect her family, sometimes to a fault. She is flawed like a human being, and throughout the story she learns how to overcome these faults. Second, I love the location, descriptions, and atmosphere. The fairy-tale creatures and festivities of the Other Kingdom are imagined in a way that makes your heart ache for it to be real. The atmosphere is soft, romantic, ethereal, and somewhat mysterious. Third, I love the love stories, plain and simple. There are two love stories in Wildwood Dancing; they are tell a different kind of story, and I think Marillier did a good job of balancing the two out. One is eloquent and somber, whereas the other sweet and light-heated. The first love story is apparent from the beginning and remains rather constant throughout the book, whereas the latter is revealed toward the end.
I have to say in defense of Tatiana and Sorrow... Even though I don't agree with Tati giving up on life and becoming so consumed by her love for Sorrow, I think it was realistic for her character to react the way she did because that was just the sort of person she was, whether you disagree with her actions or not. Personally, I don't think she had an easy choice to make and if you go on to read Cybele's Secret, you'll find that she is continuing to seek a solution for her predicament. Juliet Marillier has even mentioned in interviews that Tati's story has a few loose ends that need to be tired up in the third installment of the Wildwood trilogy (even though I wonder if she will actually ever get around to writing it.) Also, I thought Tati's and Sorrow's romance was a little more satisfying than Jena and Costi's because their love story is developed throughout the course of the entire book, whereas Jena and Costi don't become a thing until the last possible moment.
Anyway, Wildwood Dancing, for me, is the type of book that is worth staying up all night to finish (which I did, against the influence of some pretty heavy medications...) My first time reading, there were parts that caught me so off guard that I literally screamed. Wildwood Dancing will certainly not collect dust on my bookshelf, and I recommend it to anyone, young and old, looking for a dreamy romantic fairy-tale. And I would also rec commend reading other books by Juliet Marillier, especially Daughter of the Forest.
When their ill father leaves Jena and her sisters for the winter, Jena is left in charge of the holding. However, though capable and independent, Jena and her sisters run into trouble when their cousin attempts to take over the household's affairs in their father's absence. On top of that, the eldest sister Tati falls deeply in love with a man of the fairy realm in the midst of a brewing war between humans and fae.
As always Juliet Marillier's prose is lovely and atmospheric, and the plot and setting were very unique. I'm impressed at how Juliet Marillier can weave so many different fairy tales and folklore into one story. The witch of the wood reminded of Baba Yaga, albeit much less antagonistic and without the house on chicken legs. The fairy realm and the cool, immortal fae that inhabit it had a distinct Sevenwaters feel. And the frog, well, while you may not expect it, the revelation of Gogu's past isn't much as a surprise in hindsight.
But while these different elements were enjoyable, I found the plot unclear and the resolution of conflicts very deus ex machina. Jena, despite her effort to control the situation, is not the main mover of the story. From dealing with her infuriatingly sexist cousin Cezar to trying to pull her sister out of heartsickness, Jena is pulled from one situation to the next by the whims of others. She talks about independence and justice, but she does not seem capable of enacting her beliefs.
A common theme in Juliet Marillier's book, at least the three I've read, is that a strain of feminist independence is always contrasted against masculine dominance. Not surprising, since such political and societal inequalities were ingrained in many historical societies. In Wildwood Dancing, however, this gender inequality isn't a part of society, as it may have been, but is rather starkly illustrated only by Cezar's overbearing and infuriating masculinity. Cezar was a great villain in how he slowly exerted his control over the household, but if that's the case, I would like a strong protagonist who can fight it. Jena seemed too weak to be his foil. She passively allowed such encroachment, which made me skip a few chapters ahead to avoid the domestic drama.
Also, most of the issues in this story were resolved by outside forces, particularly Cezar's encroachment on Jena's holdings and Tati's heartsickness. This just seemed to happen after a period of time, and all Jena had to do was wait and watch.
Overall, a decent read and worth it, though I did not enjoy this book as much as her other books.
Top reviews from other countries
Maybe it may take more than one reading for an older-adult to really appreciate the beauty of the story - for I must admit I baulked a little originally, at the idea of the heroine (Jena) carrying a frog companion about on her shoulder - and allowing him to sleep on her pillow ... Eek! Still, this is a fairy tale and allowances must be made. Of course Gogu (the frog) is not all he seems, and neither is the supposed "evil" character of the Witch of the Woods. "Good and evil" actually work together for the best result for the whole, here, (as they do in everyday life - nothing being so black or white as it appears) and it's a fascinating tale of realisation, acceptance, and growth of the young "cast" - with a happy (or at least acceptable) ending for all.
Originally I only read this book as it was another of J.M.'s - of whom I'm a growing fan - but I'm glad I did. All her work contains elements of the "magical" running through it, her Sevenwaters trilogy being a huge favourite of mine - no J.M. fan can be totally closed to a bit of fantasy in their reading. So go ahead - bring the magic of the Nature world into your life. I bet you'll find you quietly enjoy it.
It's similar, in that it involves the lives of a family of young girls (between 5 - 17 years) and their experiences in the Fairy realms of the Forest. At first I was a bit doubtful, but I was quickly drawn into it, and although I have left my "young adulthood" a few decades(!) behind, am enjoying it very much.
Young adults will love it - and so will we "olds" if we open our imaginations to the magic!