A Slightly Different Review : Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Today is a slightly different format for a review. 

DaugherI recently buddy read Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest with Mayri at the Bookforager blog.  If you haven’t visited Mayri before I heartily recommend you do so, she’s a wonderful blogger and I loved our buddy read, so much so in fact we are already planning our next book.

So, the review today will take the form of our chat back and forth as we progressed through the chapters. I will be posting half our discussion and then you just step over to Mayri’s blog to check out our thoughts on the concluding chapters.

Now, before I start, I would mention that given the nature of our ongoing conversation during the read this post may contain spoilers so if you’re planning on giving this a read you might want to bear that in mind before moving forward:

Chapters 1-4

Lynn : Obviously I’m familiar with this fairytale but I think Marillier is doing an excellent job of fleshing the characters out.  It has a feel of a historical novel almost with the inclusion of war or troubles between the Celts and the Britons and I’m fascinated by the inclusion of Sorcha’s stories – particularly the one about the jewel encrusted goblet that put me in mind of the Arthurian legend about the Holy Grail. I love Sorcha’s storytelling and her gentle ways – it helps to remind me that she’s still a child really which I think I forgot sometimes because she’s so mature in some respects. I’m also really interested to learn what has happened to Simon.

Chapter 4  was emotional wasn’t it? The scene where Sorcha’s garden is destroyed (I was furious) and then the brothers being trapped and changed (it was really quite a strong scene).

What do you make of it so far?  Are you already familiar with the fairytale?

Mayri – Yes, I’m familiar with the fairy story too. Or I was. I’m not sure that I remember the end right, or if I’m mixing it up with another story (something about one of the brothers ending up with a bird’s wing in place of one arm?)

Something I found really interesting when I read Marillier’s Heart’s Blood was how she set it in a specific historical period, and I love that she’s done the same here. It’s the same period, I think. I have to admit, I don’t know much about the history between the Celts and Britons, but I’m really enjoying all the details.

And Sorcha’s stories are fab. I quite like that she’s telling fairytales in a fairytale retelling – that makes me smile.

And yes, like you Lynn, I’m struggling to keep in mind that Sorcha is only 12 years old at the beginning of the story. She is very mature in some ways, already an experienced healer and very patient. I question this decision and am wondering if there’s a reason why Marillier has started the story with her so young. Is there a reason, I wonder.

The destruction of her garden was heart-wrenching! I like (hate!) the tension that’s been building with the introduction of Oonagh, and when she finally showed her true colours and cursed them all the transformation felt both magical and real, if that makes sense? Oonagh feels impossible to defeat right now.

I’m fascinated by these siblings. In a short space of time, Marillier has given us enough information to care about each one of Sorcha’s brothers and be upset at their fate. The relationship between the seven of them was really well written – how important it is to Sorcha, how they each carry a bit of their mother, how they each have different destinies (will the trilogy continue with their stories? I hope so).

Finally (you’ll be glad to hear … I’ve rambled on and on) I appreciated how Marillier made Simon a traumatised character. He may become a hero or a villain, I don’t know, but his terror and pain at being tortured, being really badly damaged in body and soul, made him a lot more interesting than if he’d just bounced back.

Lynn – I loved reading your thoughts.  I also don’t know much about the Celts and Britons to be honest I feel like I should be better read about such things. 

And, yes, fairytales within fairytales – it’s just so cunning and really appeals to readers (myself included) who love that sort of thing in the first place.  I’m such a sucker for fairytales.

Sorcha being 12 is very puzzling, (and in fact as mentioned above I keep forgetting that she is so young) but then I think it’s probably something that will add weight to her years of hardship – not phrasing that very well but it wouldn’t surprise me if she isn’t a good deal older by the time she  completes her ordeal. Maybe 7 years at least?

Mayri – Yes, I’m expecting this too. And seven years has an appropriately fairytale-ish ring to it.

Lynn  – So, are we thinking that Sorcha and Simon will meet again?  I’d like to think so.  At the same time, where did he disappear to? Did the ‘folk’ take him?

Mayri – I really hope they meet again. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t find out what’s happened to Simon and get to see him mended. And if the Folk did take him, will he be OK when we see him again?

Chapter Five

Lynn – This felt like a relatively short chapter but at the same time gave me a few notions to chew on.

I was really interested in a few things and hopefully I’ll remember them all and make sense of my ideas.

Firstly, poor Sorcha.  I don’t think I ever realised just how horrendous the task she’d been set really was.  Not only would I not have the first clue about how to spin and weave but having to do so with a plant that sounds hideous to touch (kind of reminds me of nettles) – how on earth can you make clothes out of such things?  Anyway, I admire her tenacity and am a bit overwhelmed on her behalf about what lies ahead for her. Not to mention I’m almost certain that I would have said something out loud by accident at some point.

This brings me to the second point.  It’s amazing how fairy tales lessen the impacts somehow.  Because they’re short stories you’re told the whole thing within a few pages and not only do the ideas not really have a chance to take root other than in a very fanciful way or perhaps that they’re a story with a message, you never quite understand the severity of what has actually happened during the tale, not to mention the language used in fairytales helps to spin the story in a sort of charming way.  ‘Once upon a time, etc..  I’ve read quite a few fairytale retellings and I think so far this has got to be one of the most hard hitting in that respect.  

Mayri – Yes, yes, yes! They never sound too bad, because of how short they are! I liked this in Heart’s Blood too, that Marillier gave things a bit more weight.

(And heck yes, I’d have spoken accidentally and bodged the whole thing!)

Lynn – I haven’t read Heart’s Blood – was it good?  Is it also a fairytale retelling?

Mayri – Yes, it’s a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It’s set in the same period, and has the same lovely blend of magic and historical detail as this book does. I heartily recommend it, I enjoyed it a lot (which is probably why I keep going on about it – sorry). 

Lynn – It’s the sign of a good book when you feel the need to shout from the rooftops as often as possible and I will definitely pick up a copy of this one – thanks :D)

Then, just as things were becoming very grim the boys returned for their brief visit and I can only say that I must have been really tense, but not realised, because I could almost feel my shoulders relaxing when they set about doing tasks to help out Sorcha. It also made me realise that she really did draw the short straw.  Of course, they have risks themselves, the possibility of being hunted, for example, but when they change they really do become a swan with very basic instincts, thoughts and feelings whereas Sorcha is living every moment.  In that respect, do you think it’s easier for the boys to not remember themselves when they’re in swan form?  Or do you think they’d prefer to retain their intelligence?

Finally, such a sad parting as the dawn broke and Sorcha was left alone again. Not to mention Finbar gave me a strange sense of foreboding.

Mayri – I agree that Sorcha’s got the short end – the whole thing is so much more of a punishment for her than for them because they lose themselves to a degree. With the exception of Conor perhaps, who seems to keep some of his own mind when he becomes a swan (because how else would we learn what was going on back home? Ha ha).

Finbar’s distance was very worrying, I don’t like the feeling that he is losing himself more than the others.

And then hell’s bells, such a brutal interlude! I’m not sure that rape was needed to make Sorcha’s trials any worse than they already were. Just the threat of being found would have been enough, to my mind, to have her want to move on when the Lady of the Forest says to. 

I question Marillier’s decision to put this in here. 

Lynn – Me too.  I was really struck by the brutality of it tbh.  To be fair, it wasn’t overly long or gratuitous but when I was reading it it felt long.  And it did stay with me -and perhaps that’s really, as conflicted as it seems, a testament to the writing, because it had such a powerful impact.  For me, I couldn’t help wondering why Finbar couldn’t have just encouraged Sorcha to leave the cave – but maybe he isn’t allowed to interfere in the trials she faces?

Mayri – I did feel that the brothers were a bit ineffectual here – but I guess, when you only have one night in which to help there’s a limit to what you can do.

Chapter 7

Lynn – Certainly took my mind off things a little.  Red and his companions.  Firstly the chapter where Red and Sorcha were being attacked and she called for help.  I couldn’t help thinking, when they ran away and ended up on a mudslide, of being put in mind of that film Romancing the Stone where the two characters similarly find themselves on a mudslide. Plus, before that the scene in the water with what I’m assuming were merfolk calling to Sorcha to join them -and then finally the scene in the cave with the folk and Red’s strange denial of it all to himself the morning after – even though he made sure to keep the remains of the candle.

Mayri – (Wow, Romancing the Stone is a movie I haven’t seen in a while! Tempted to dig that out for a rewatch now). As soon as Red, Ben and John showed up I felt the story pick up its pace just a bit. I like how Sorcha keeps thinking of the Britons as these down-to-earth, no-imagination types, like they’re a different species. And then Red goes and proves her right by not accepting the magic that happened right in front of his eyes.

Now head on over to the Bookforager to read our thoughts on the concluding chapters. 



18 Responses to “A Slightly Different Review : Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier”

  1. Buddy Reading Daughter of the Forest with Lynn – bookforager

    […] first half of our conversation can be found over on Lynn’s site here and that’s definitely where you should start. If you’ve come here from over there, then […]

  2. Tammy

    This is a fun way to review a book, I really enjoyed your back and forth😁

    • @lynnsbooks

      It was a good way to read. I think buddy reading with someone almost feels similar to readalongs because your back and forth chat seems to make you really think about what you’re reading – which obviously reviewing does the same thing – but in this respect having all the notes written was really good – made me think I should do more note taking when I’m reading day to day.
      Lynn 😀

  3. sjhigbee

    Ah… it was lovely to follow your discussion. I LOVED this book (and the whole series SO MUCH). I love the Celtic magic and strong sense of nature that Marillier creates within the book. Thank you for this – it worked so very well:)).

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s a very well written book and I totally see your point about the nature and how well this feeds into the story.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    This is an interesting format, and I definitely approve of the choice of buddy read book!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It was good – and we’re thinking of more books but from our already overloaded TBR’s so maybe we start to whittle away. Little by little.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Lexlingua

    To be honest, this is the first time I’m reading a chapter-specific “buddy read” review. Generally I note readathalons with interest, but I’d rather stay away because spoilers! otherwise. But for this book, I’d make an exception every time. I have really loved this book since the first time I read it. Sorcha goes through the wringer, and it’s painful, but perseveres come-hell or -high water, and she gets her bit of happiness at the end.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I was so glad that she did get her little bit of happiness – she really went through that wringer, and then some. I love Marillier’s writing and this makes me recall that I still have Tower of Thorns and Den of Wolves on my shelves.
      Lynn 😀

  6. waytoofantasy

    Love this conversation! At the beginning I had a good smile over the speculation haha. 🙂 Glad you read this one, Lynn, I do love Marillier so. Also, Romancing the Stone! LOL. I didn’t think of it while reading this one but yes. 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Haha – that image with the mudslide made me smile – in fact I think a few of the interactions with ‘Red’ made me smile tbh.
      Lynn 😀

  7. bkfrgr

    Lynn, I had a blast doing this with you. Thank you again. 😘

    • @lynnsbooks

      Backatcha. This was such a thought provoking way to read and getting somebody else’s opinion of the chapters as you go along is a great idea, you pick up things you might have otherwise missed and it gives you a different perspect.
      Thanks 😀
      Lynn 😀

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