Book Review : Daughter of the Forest

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review : Daughter of the ForestDaughter of the Forest: Book One of the Sevenwaters Trilogy by Juliet Marillier
Published by Tor Books on April 21st 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 416
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Bookshop.org
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four-half-stars
Source: NetGalley

Juliet Marillier brings us a beautifully re-imagined version of the Six Swans myth in Daughter of the Forest.
Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment.
But Sorcha's joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift--by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever.
When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all...

There are no words for just how much I enjoyed Daughter of the Forest, a truly enchanting and unique novel. I was immediately ensnared from the very first page of Daughter of the Forest, which follows a young girl named Sorcha, who grows up in a magical, wild forest with her six older brothers. With a father completely focused on war and bereft of his wife, who died bearing his only daughter, Sorcha is completely raised and cared for by her brothers. Sorcha grows up running wild in a forest that is more than it seems, learning how to heal with its plants and to respect the magical forces and the nature that reside there. But her idyllic life comes to an end when her father unexpectedly remarries a wicked woman named Oonagh with strange powers, who promptly and systematically tries to destroy everything her new stepchildren hold dear.

 

We all accepted that this land was a gate to the other world, the realm of spirits and dreams and the Fair Folk, without any question.”

 

Life as she knows it for Sorcha as a healer and sister is irrevocably over when Oonagh turns her brothers into swans. Fleeing for her life, Sorcha is told by her mysterious ally, the Lady of the Forest, that if she weaves her swan brothers each a shirt made out of a painful, thorny plant known as starwort, and places them over their necks one after the other, they can be changed back into humans. But there’s more than one catch, as there usually is in these types of fairy tales–each part of the making of the shirt, must be Sorcha’s doing and Sorcha’s alone–the harvesting of the thorny plant, the creation of the thread, the spinning of the shirts. And sweet, Sorcha, lover of telling tales cannot speak a single word or tell anyone of her plight in any way, shape, or form–for then her brothers can never be changed back and will remain cursed as swans forever. Though the brothers transform back into human form on midsummer and midwinter evenings, she is unable to speak to even them or to tell them of her mission to save those most precious to her.

 

“You must listen, and listen well. For indeed you have a choice. You can flee and hide, and wait to be found. You can live out your days in terror, without meaning. Or you can take the harder choice, and you can save them.”

 

So invested was I in brave, kind Sorcha’s quest to save her brothers that I stayed up until all hours of early morning in order to finish it. Daughter of the Forest is the most magical book I have read since A Bear and the Nightingale. It made me weep on multiple occasions for Sorcha is faced with more than just the evil of magic–she is faced with the pure evil of mankind. These parts of the novel were hard to read, as Daughter of the Forest conveys them in such a realistic way. But I loved kind, gentle Sorcha so much. The depth of dedication to and love for her brothers was even more astonishing than the magic of the tale and her surroundings. I loved the focus on this selfless, platonic love.

 

Throughout all of her tribulations, the magical, sentient forest is a character of its own, one providing a safe harbor for Sorcha until she is swept away by circumstance to the strange, foreign lands of Britain, who were forever at war with her own people. There she is faced with prejudice and fear, but also finds companionship in Lord Hugh “Red” of Harrowfield, who shelters her despite the disapproval of his family and neighbors. I thought I would be bored when Sorcha left the forest–but I was anything but. Not only does Sorcha have to confront a culture different from her own, but accusations of witchcraft, lechery, and a very different kind of love than the one she holds for her brothers–something that is more terrifying for her than any magic she has faced before. 

 

Though I found this love, slow-forming (which is to my personal taste), well-developed, and as beautiful as everything else in Daughter of the Forest, I could not help but to feel conflicted about it. This was the main reason that I gave this amazing book a 4.5 instead of 5 stars. I was somewhat dismayed that Sorcha ended up with the love interest that she did. In the beginning of Daughter of the Forest, we learned of a prophecy that she would end up with a Briton and that only the child of such a union could stop the war between her people of the forest and theirs. As such, I was sure that the younger brother of Red, Simon, whom she nursed back to health so tenderly after being tortured as prisoner of war by her family, would be the one for her. Since she healed more than just his physical wounds, I had hoped that the two would somehow find each other again, especially with her newfound connection to Red. But that was not the case and View Spoiler » Though I wished it had gone a different way, the ending that Sorcha gets is still beautiful. 

 

“He would have told her–he would have said, it matters not if you are here, or there for I see you before me every moment.”

 

 Lines like those are enough to make any reader swoon and see that the speaker of them is still a great love match for Sorcha, even if he wasn’t my first choice for her. I also took pleasure in the fact that Sorcha remained so close to her brothers, and didn’t drop everything to be with a man. In many fairy tales, the maiden, once defeating a curse, moves away to be with her one true love in a castle or kingdom far away. But this is not so in Daughter of the Forest. View Spoiler » What a breath of fresh air. 

 

Literally the only other thing stopping me from giving Daughter of the Forest a 5/5 star rating was that once View Spoiler »

 

Honestly, I absolutely adored Daughter of the Forest and it is now one of my all-time favorite novels. I am not sure any review, especially mine, could adequately capture how magical, engrossing, and simply beautiful this novel is. I cannot recommend reading it enough for fans of fantasy, fairy-tales, romance, magic, or strong female characters. And for those that loved that Winternight Trilogy, you will certainly love Daughter of the Forest as well. I’m already planning to read more of the series and to purchase a hard copy of the novel.

four-half-stars
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Book Review : Daughter of the Forest - Blogging with Dragons

Posted April 11, 2020 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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