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. 

 

Friday Face Off Freebie: Blackthorn and Grim by Juliet Marillier

FFO.jpg

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below – the list has been updated to help out those of you who like to plan ahead – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme. This week’s theme:

Choose one of your favourite titles and compare the covers

Strangely enough having the freedom to choose any book at all this week actually threw me into a turmoil!  No idea why, I thought the chance to use any book would be liberating but it turned out too much choice and the overall dilemma of what to pick.  Basically, I was like a child in a sweetie shop and on top of that I really have used a lot of my favourite books already (sometimes more than once – eeek!)  Anyway.  I’ve cheated slightly – I’m not comparing a particular cover but instead going with a series of books and displaying their covers because I love them all: The Blackthorn and Grim series by Juliet Marillier – feast your eyes on these gorgeous covers and fall in love:

The covers:

My favourite this week: all of them 😀

Like last week I’ve added a Mr Linky here so that you can leave a link if you wish or please leave me a link in the comments so I can visit and check out your covers.  Thanks

Next week – A cover that is ‘fresh’

Future themes: (if you’re struggling with any of these themes then use a ‘freebie’ of one of your favourite covers)

2019

4th January – A cover that is fresh – New beginnings for a New Year

11th January – ‘I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king’ – A cover that depicts a novel set in the Tudor period

18th January – A cover featuring an Amulet – either in the cover or title

25th January – ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.’ – A cover featuring a monk/priest/person of the cloth

1st February – A comedy cover

8th February – ‘Hi little cub. Oh no, don’t be ssscared.’ – A cover with snakes

15th February – A heart – for Valentine’s day past

22nd February – “Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay; the worst is death and death will have his day.” – A cover with abandoned building/s

1st March – ‘who will buy this wonderful morning’ – A cover featuring a shop or market

8th March – ‘Two little fishes and a momma fishy too’ – A cover featuring a fish/fishes or other sea creatures

15th March – ‘Beware the moon, lads.’ – A cover with a shapeshifter

22nd March – ‘A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse’ – A cover featuring a king

29th March – “I thought unicorns were more . . . Fluffy.”  – A cover featuring a unicorn

5th April – ‘nomad is an island’ – A cover featuring a desert landscape

12th April – ‘Odin, Odin, send the wind to turn the tide – A cover featuring a longboat

19th April – ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – A cover featuring a school

Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier

Look, far be it from me to tell you to read a book – but just read this book, pretty please.  I’m not going to beg – okay, I will, please, please, please read this book.  That should probably give a slight hint as to my feelings for this story.  It was great, it was enchanting, it put a spell on me which I couldn’t break until I’d completely finished reading – literally in virtually one day!

In a nutshell (a little acorn maybe) the story is about a woman, wrongfully imprisoned who accepts help from the most unexpected source.  Blackthorn, as she will become known, is a wise woman and healer.  She has been incarcerated in a miserable, filthy prison for too long, the only thing sustaining her the dreams she has of bringing down revenge on the head of the man who destroyed her life.

The story gets off to an immediate start as Blackthorn finds out that she is to be murdered rather than given the opportunity to air her tale.  At the same time, she receives a visitor, Conmael, a member of the fae who has an unusual proposition in which Blackthorn will give up her desire for revenge, will live a life of good far away from this place and provide help to all those who ask.  In return he will save her life and see to her escape.  And so a pact is made, of course, a pact with a member of the fae is not to be taken lightly.  The terms between Conmael and Blackthorn will remain intact for seven years.  If the terms are breached, a year will be added for every time the pact is broken.

And so Blackthorn escapes into the night.  Followed closely by a giant of a man, and former prisoner called Grim.  The two will find themselves travelling to the land of Dalriada where their services will soon become in great demand.

To be honest I don’t really want to go into the plot.  It’s just a magical explosion of gripping story told almost like an adult fairytale.  The writing is simply gorgeous and evocative.

The story is narrated in three different voices, Blackthorn, Grim and Prince Oran.  Crown Prince Oran of Dalraida has finally chosen a bride and although this is an arranged marriage the two have exchanged letters and seem to be perfectly well matched.  Most believe that Prince Oran is too sensitive, he cares about nature, he’s respectful to people regardless of station or sex and he enjoys reading and poetry.  And yet, in spite of the doubts of some, his little neck of the woods seems to run smoothly, his people wish to work for him and work hard to please and the villages within his remit are pleasant places to live.  And then there’s Dreamer’s Wood.  One of the old places, on the edges of the realm, it has a mystical feel and walking under the dark canopy usually produces a feeling of being watched.  Nobody really enters the forest.  The ‘others’ are believed to dwell there and none will brave the unspoken menace.

Why did I love this so much.  It’s difficult to pin down.  I wouldn’t say I had any difficulty in second guessing certain elements of the plot and I’m sure that others would no doubt do the same.  But, there are a number of different strands to the tale and more than the actual main story, which seems to have turned into a mystery that Blackthorn and Grim will become involved in trying to solve on the Prince’s behalf, there are little jaunts into side stories not to mention a number of occasions where we look back at Blackthorn’s past.  I also really enjoyed the three main characters and alternating the chapters between them gave the story an added pace and a more rounded feel.

Blackthorn is a great character, twisted with anger and yet the chances she has been given have already started to have a positive effect.  We have Oran, the thinker – and in fact forward thinker given the way most nobles behave.  And Grim.  I loved this character.  He’s a great hulk of a man with a quick temper that once roused is usually followed by a blinding flash of temper resulting in the use of fists – and yet he’s afraid of the dark and has developed a strong devotion to Blackthorn.  Both of these characters are badly broken and yet in coming together they are forming a strange bond that is helping them to heal.

On top of this we have a setting straight out of a storytime read.  Castles, damsels in distress. Wicked nobles and scheming fae.  What’s not to love!

I really loved this book.  I can’t give it enough feels.  If you enjoy a story with beautiful writing, strong and intriguing characters, a fairytale setting and magical creatures then I think you will also enjoy this book.  Juliet Marillier definitely goes on my authors to be watched and auto bought (yep, I’ve got my beady eye on JM!)  And, given the way this book develops I’m expecting more instalments – at least six maybe???

What are you waiting for.  Get out of here and pick up a copy.

Other reviews:

  1. The Bibliosanctum
  2. Fantasy Review Barn
  3. Not Yet Read
  4. Books Without Any Pictures
  5. Tenacious Reader

And, if all that doesn’t convince you then I just despair.  I do.  I’ll just go dive into Dreamer’s Pool!!!!

Books!!! Need I say more..

My books for the past week – which I’m just all so chuffed and happy about:

Django Wexler – The Shadow Throne – won this from Del Rey Books – I don’t win a lot of books so I was a bit overly pleased to say the least!!!  Original recommendation to read this series from Mogsy at The Bibliosanctum for which my thanks 😀

Arrived:

My copy of Max Gladstone’s Three Parts Dead.  Recommendation for this came from Andrea at Little Red Reviewer – this blog comes with a warning – that you tbr will increase monumentally!

Received a copy of Golden Son by Pierce Brown from Hodder & Stoughton – very excited for this.  I actually started reading this series as part of an event surrounding the first book – Red Rising.

Netgalley:

  1. Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz (brought to my attention by the lovely Lisa at Tenacious Reader)
  2. Shadow Study by Maria Snyder – I have enjoyed Ms Snyder’s works so wanted to pick this up
  3. Canary by Duane Swierczynski

Bought

Pre-ordered Sarah Pinborough’s The Death House – because I lurve SP – and I owe my love of SP’s works to my BBB Jenny at Wondrous Reads

Bought Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier (because it came highly recommended by Danya at Fine Print and she has some damn fine taste in books)

Pre-ordered Sorrow’s Isle by Jen Williams – because her books are awesome sauce!