Monday, August 27, 2012

Daughter of the Forest

By Juliet Marillier
Read: August 13-16, 2012
Published: February 18, 2002 by Tor Books
Source: Library book
Category: Adult - Fairy Tale

Daughter of the Forest is a beautiful, painful fairytale retelling about the lengths that one young girl will take to save her brothers. Although I did not know the story of the six swans before I began it, it has since become one of my favorites.
This is the path. Straight ahead, Sorcha. You knew it would be hard. It will become harder still. 
Sorcha lives with her father Lord Colum and her 6 older brothers in a place called Sevenwaters, somewhere in Ireland surrounded by a forest that is enchanted. Despite her father’s constant war with the Britons and her brothers training to join the fight, Sorcha’s life is relatively peaceful and idyllic. Although she feels alienated from her father, she finds safety and protection in her older brothers, who will do anything for her. 

Then two things happen that change everything. 
Sorcha’s life will never be the same again.

That’s always how it begins, right?

The family:
Colum – The war-hardened, grieving father
Liam – the eldest and natural leader
Diarmid – the one to make you laugh
Cormack – the young warrior
Conor – the scribe and mystic
Finbar – the seer stuck between two worlds
Padriac – the inquisitive one and animal mender
Sorcha – the healer and storyteller
The first change to happen in Sevenwaters is the capturing of a prisoner by Colum's men. Sorcha and one of her brothers rescue him after a gruesome interrogation, and she becomes tasked with his healing. It's during this time that Sorcha learns that the world isn’t black and white. She loses her innocence in many ways, because she sees that her family is not perfect and realizes that those you love (and whom love you) can still do ugly things.

Second, Sorcha’s father remarries (Uh-oh, beware of stepmothers!) and her brothers are placed under an evil enchantment that only Sorcha has the power to overcome. Thus begins a journey that will break apart everything that she knows and loves. Is she strong enough to survive it?
“Why Sorcha?”…“Because she is the strongest,” said Conor simply. “Because she can bend with the wind, and not break. Sorcha is the thread that binds us all together. Without her we are leaves in the wind, blown hither and thither at random.”
When Sorcha's brothers are placed under a spell, she will do anything in her power to destroy it. Even if it means that she is unable to speak or utter any sounds while they are bound by the enchantment. Even if she has to complete a physically painful and debilitating task that will take months or years. Even if she can tell no one what she is doing. Even if she has to travel from home and come face to face with evil she cannot imagine.

Sorcha has an inner strength that is astounding. What she faces is heart wrenching and difficult to read at times. But she does not waver on her path. And amidst the agonizing trial and toil, she finds help and guidance. In the form of a beguiling fairy queen. In an unlikely savior turned protector. In her brothers who are willing to give up their wellbeing to save hers. These pockets of goodness weave throughout the story, creating a beautiful tale. 
Our love wraps you like a blanket. Our strength is yours, and yours keeps our hope alive.
One of my favorite things about this book is the relationship between Sorcha and her brothers. I love that the author took time to develop them individually and give them each strengths and weaknesses. I love that Sorcha would do anything for them and they for her. Of course I do have my favorites, and Finbar stole my heart from the beginning. I especially loved the relationship that he had with his sister. I found his story to be nearly as emotional as Sorcha's. 
“Real life is not quite as it is in stories. In the old tales, bad things happen, and when the tale has unfolded and come to its triumphant conclusion, it is as if the bad things had never been. Life is not as simple as that, not quite.”
I love this quote. It exactly sums up Daughter of the Forest for me. This is a fairy tale. But it also speaks truth about life. About how once you go forward, you cannot go back to the beginning, because things are never the same again. I felt that for Sorcha and the other characters of within the story. No matter what she accomplishes, in the end, her life and that of all the characters, is permanently changed. And sometimes that change comes in the form of wounds that will never truly heal. But underlying everything is in this story is a message of hope. To press on and not give up. That some things are worth it in the end.

Daughter of the Forest is one of those book where I found I had to go back and re-read the end multiple times to make sure that it didn't change. Each time I'd ache a bit and then breathe a sigh of relief. The story was an emotional read for me. I clenched my teeth a lot for Sorcha and actually cried at one point. 

A beautiful slow building romance is imbedded in this story. It is the kind of love story that sneaks up on the characters. It is quiet and confusing and lovely to watch. Although Sorcha is the storyteller, the two tales that her hero tells are by far my favorite. Pay attention to them.

The setting of Daughter of the Forest appears to be Ireland during the very early Middle Ages. I don’t know a lot about this time period (and I'm not sure the landscape is accurate), but the peoples described are real in history. And the book definitely reads as if it is an alternate history. One filled with terrible magic and the beautiful, dangerous Fey. 

Despite my love for this story, I did feel like there was a bit of an overuse of foreboding language as a transition. I think the story would have been just as suspenseful without it. 

A note on the content: Although this is a fairy tale retelling, and Sorcha is between the ages of 12 and 16 through the entire course of the novel, it is not classified as a Young Adult book. Some of the things that she faces are very difficult. Please use discretion.  

Rating: 5 Stars
Love Triangle Factor: Mild - this one's tricky because it depends on whose perspective you're considering this question from. There is really isn't a triangle, but the love story is very slow building.  


  1. Love it! So happy to read your thoughts on this one, and so so happy that you read it. It's such a beautiful story. I love Finbar and Simon, and my heart was still breaking for them at the end. But I did adore Red, and I love that the romance DID totally sneak up on Sorcha. Lovely way of putting it. I hope you're planning to continue with the series as soon as this one settles a bit!

    1. Thank you for reading the book first and suggesting it! I will definitely be continuing the series. I actually picked up Son of the Shadows from the library today, because I just couldn't resist. But I'm not sure when I'll start reading it. I'm glad we'll get more of Finbar in the next book. But I still wonder about Simon. We saw him so much in the beginning of Daughter - got emotionally involved in his life -and then he only reappears briefly at the end of the story. His part felt a bit unfinished to me. I wanted to know more about what happened to him. But I agree, Red was great! And I think more of who Sorcha needed (she needed someone less damaged than herself). Are you enjoying Son?

  2. OH YES, THIS! All of it! I don't know what to say as a comment because your words are pure gold.

    I was excited to read Daughter but scared that I wouldn't like it as much as everyone else had (because of the cover!). Silly me! Just like with The Name of the Wind, I held my breath for nearly the entire length of the book. I bit my fingernails. I teared up and wiped my eyes and cheeks at times. My heart pounded and I felt fear for these people that I FELT were real to me. I just was so invested that I seriously could only handle a little bit at the time. For me, that's the BEST indicator of how much I'm loving a book. (I'm pretty much paraphrasing my blog post here. It's going up tomorrow.)

    Also, I am so glad to see your thoughts about Simon in response to Heidi's comment, though. I feel the same way.

    Love this, so much!

    1. Thanks, Asheley! I couldn't get beyond this story so I kept reliving it while I worked on this post.

      HAHA. You and your covers. I tend to ignore them, because they are so often ridiculous. I think the one for the next book is even weirder. But at least it fits with the theme. And the drawing on the cover does have a historical feel to it, which fits the book.

      I did all those things too while reading this book. It was a very emotional read for me, and it took me a while to come down from that. I can't wait to read your post!

      Yes. I would like to see Simon again. But I think his story is finished for us. Hopefully he's finally found contentment.


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