Anyway, you're not here to hear me complain, but to read a review. The theme this month for Keishon's TBR challenge was category romance... However, I don't buy/read many of those and didn't have any that dated before 2008 and weren't read... so you get a fantasy book instead. I was looking for a fantasy romance and well, there's been a bit of a buzz for Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier lately. So I decided to start from the beginning and read Daughter of the Forest.
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
first published by Tor in April 2000
Lord Colum of Sevenwaters is blessed with six sons: Liam, a natural leader; Diarmid, with his passion for adventure; twins Cormack and Conor, each with a different calling; rebellious Finbar, grown old before his time by his gift of the Sight; and the young, compassionate Padriac.Genre: fantasy
But it is Sorcha, the seventh child and only daughter, who alone is destined to defend her family and protect her land from the Britons and the clan known as Northwoods. For her father has been bewitched, and her brothers bound by a spell that only Sorcha can lift.
Exiled from Sevenwaters and cast out into the forest and beyond, Sorcha falls into the hands of the enemy. Now she is torn between the life that she has always known and a love that comes only once.
Thus the famous legend of the six brothers who turn into swans, and the sister who must save them, is beautifully retold by Juliet Marillier
Series: Sevenwaters, Book #1
The Story: I don't know the legend of the six brothers who turn into swans, so I can't say how closely to the legend the book is... however, I was intrigued when I first read the synopsis.
Sorcha is the youngest of 7 children and the only girl. Her mother died, giving birth to Sorcha and it changed her father's attitude towards all his children and life in general. Raised by her brothers, Sorcha is not a spoiled princess... She's a bit of a tomboy who learned about medicine and healing herbs and run around, giving her help, barefoot. All the children seem to have some gift or calling...
Sorcha's people are at war with the Britons, trying to reclaim the magic island. The story really starts when Finbar, the most mysterious of Sorcha's brother, asks her to help him heal a Briton prisoner that he wants to set back free. The Briton is named Simon and they befriended each other. Unfortunately, on the day Sorcha's father comes back with his new bribe, Simon has to escape and his whereabouts and conditions become unknown to Sorcha.
Sorcha's father's new bride is definitively the evil stepmother. She tries to tear apart father and children and is somewhat afraid of Sorcha. In the end, the brothers decide to rebel to make their father sees reasons... but they are too late, as they are turned into swans. Sorcha was able to escape, she is then helped by the forest's spirit who tells Sorcha that if she can undo the spell. However, it will be difficult. For her brothers, Sorcha is willing to do anything... that includes not uttering a word or making a sound till she has spin starwort, some kind 0f flowers with needles, and made 6 shirts, one for each brother.
Although determined, it is a difficult task for Sorcha, all alone in the forest... till the day she has to leave and fall into the hands of a Briton, Lord Hugh Harrowfield who has come to Sevenwaters to look for his younger brother... Simon.
My Opinion: As a whole, I thought Daughter of the Forest was an okay book. I thought the story was quite original and the strongest point to the book. Unfortunately, there were a few things that did not work for me and it kept me from fully enjoying this book :( In addition, I guess I was expecting something a bit more focused on romance. While there is a love story, it is definitively not the focus.
So let see... First, I had difficulty getting into Daughter of the Forest. It took me several attempts before settling down and reading it. I don't know if it was the writing style or the pacing, but something was just a bit off for me to really get engrossed. In the end, I do think this was compensated by the storyline.
I thought the pacing at the beginning was particularly slow. Ms Marillier spent a long time building up the story, giving background information on Sorcha and her family... and that's good. However, I think she neglected the world building. I'm not totally sure what sort of people Sorcha is... as for the Britons, it seems they were English people. See, I don't know if the storyline is taking place in a new world, an alternative world or our world, but modified. As a result, it was hard to make up an image. At first, I thought it was a separate new world, but then, there were mentions of Vikings... so that confused me a bit. I think the first part of the book would have been better if Ms Marillier balanced it more between the world building and the characters.
I liked Sorcha as a heroine. I mean, what's not to like. The girl is bright, courageous, self-sacrificing, but at the same time, quite vulnerable and naive... totally my type of heroines. However, although I really liked Sorcha, I had a problem with her... her age. At the beginning, Sorcha is 12 y.o. if I'm not wrong... and at the end, she's around 16. That's wayyyyy too young. I know, I know, it wasn't surprising to see girls be married at that age in those times so it fits the time period; however, it's too young for my tastes. For Sorcha to have gone through all she's gone through at such a young age, it's just too much. Also, I'm not sure her personality really matches her age. It does explain her naiveness and innocence, but... couldn't she have been perhaps 2 years older? I think I would have liked it better.
The whole book really focuses on Sorcha. I felt like there wasn't really an hero. I guess I could pick Hugh aka Red as the hero... but the book is 544 pages long and he appears, what, half-way in? Also, liked I said, Daughter of the Forest doesn't focus on the romance... which is unfortunate. I think that Ms Marillier could have blend fantasy and romance better. It would have been nice to see Red and Sorcha spend more time together and would be more believable for readers to accept their love. I wasn't surprised when Red declared his love for Sorcha, but I didn't totally buy it either :(
Finally, the brothers... again, I don't know if it's the writing style or what, but I didn't fully connect with them. Especially Cormack and Diarmid. Something was missing for me to really like them... and as a result, I didn't believe in their connection to each other. I mean, no doubt that they all liked their little sister... but between each other? Not sure...
Okay, so it sounds like I didn't like the book... but I did. Despite the writing style, the slow start, Sorcha being too young, this is quite an interesting storyline. Was it the best book I've read or the wowzer I was looking for? No. If you're looking for a fantasy series and want to try something different, then this would be my pick. However, keep in mind that the romance is kept to a minimum.
My Grade: C. I originally gave this a B after I finished reading it... then, I realized that there were much more things that didn't work for me that I thought... but what really made me settle for a C is the fact that I've finished the book almost two weeks ago and I haven't rushed to read the sequels yet. While I think that Daughter of the Forest was okay and a decent set up for more, I still have difficulty getting into book 2, Son of the Shadows... Therefore, C it is.