Monday, May 12, 2014

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

The first book in the Sevenwaters series by Juliet Marillier, Daughter of the Forest is a sweeping fantasy that follows the life of Sorcha, the seventh child and only daughter of the seventh son and Heir to Sevenwaters. Sorcha's six brothers are extremely protective of her, and she has lived her whole life within the shield of their presence.

When a Briton soldier named Simon is brought into Sevenwaters and tortured for information about Briton troops and holdings, the tides begin to turn for Sorcha and her family. Her father takes a new wife, and Sorcha finds herself tending to Simon's wounds. He gives her a pendant he had carved for her in return for the beautiful stories that she tells.

When the wife casts an evil enchantment on Sorcha's brothers, turning them into swans, Sorcha is cast out from the place she has called home her entire life and forced into the forest. The Fair Folk see her plight and come to yher with a way to undo the enchantment. If she can fashion six shirts from a spiny plant called Starwort, one for each brother, the spell will be broken. The catch is, she must remain silent the entire time; if she speaks even a single word before the final shirt is draped over the head of her last brother, the spell will be sealed.

While surviving off the forest, tragedy strikes Sorcha again, and she is once again forced away from the new home that she had made. As she is adrift, a Briton rescues her from drowning. His name is Red, and he is desperately searching for his brother who had come to Sevenwaters several months prior. His entire regiment had been killed, but there was no sign of the boy. Red sees something in Sorcha that makes him realize she might hold the answers to his brother's disappearance, and he takes her across the sea to a land where she is loathed by his people and seen as a witch.

There she must stick to her duty, otherwise her brothers will spend their lives trapped in Swan form, only able to return to their human forms for one day, twice a year. Her stepmother's power is vast, and as it threatens to find her across the sea, Red must decide if he will be able to protect her and learn the truth about his brother once and for all.

The writing in this novel is lyrical and exceptional. Marillier crafts Sorcha's tale in such a way that it is impossible to not yearn with her and cry with her for her brothers, and for the awful task that has befallen her. Her dedication to saving her brothers is absolutely remarkable, and you will find yourself taking note of the things we take for granted in this life so much. The story is interesting commentary on the power of words and how simple some things can be once we start to connect with other people.

No man is an island, and that is never more true than of Sorcha. After losing her brothers so abruptly, she is forced into isolation in the forest for many months and forced into relying solely on herself. It is humans that put her in such danger, and humans that abused her so gravely. But it is also humans that have the power to heal her wounds and open her heart back up and to create connections with others.

Daughter of the Forest is an absolutely amazing read that should not be missed by any fan of the genre. Altogether, there are six books in the series. The second book, Son of Sevenwaters, follows Sorcha's daughter, Liadan, as she too must set out on a journey to save Sevenwaters from a looming evil. Fianne, granddaughter of the wicked sorceress who laid the curse on Sorcha's brothers in Daughter, is called to her own journey in Child of the Prophecy. Released several years after Child of the Prophecy, the next three books, Heir to Sevenwaters, Seer of Sevenwaters and Flame of Sevenwaters each follow a different woman on their own missions to save the lives of all they hold dear. 

5 Stars
Similar Books: Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn, The Magicians' Guild by Trudi Canavan, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

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