Backlist Burndown: Sevenwaters 1 & 2 by Juliet Marillier

Backlist Burndown

As a book blogger, sometimes I get so busy reading review titles and new releases that I end up missing out on a lot previously published books, so one of my goals for this year is to take more time to catch up with the backlist, especially in my personal reading pile. And it seems I’m not the only one! Backlist Burndown is a new meme started by Lisa of Tenacious Reader. Every last Friday of the month, she’ll be posting a review of a backlist book and is inviting anyone interested to do the same. Of course, you can also review backlist books any day you want, as often you want, but be sure to watch for her post at the end of the month to link up!

And since this is the inaugural Backlist Burndown post, I figured I’d do something a little special for it. You all get a treat — a twofer!

Daughter of the ForestDaughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of Sevenwaters

Publisher: Tor (May 5, 2000)

Author Information: Website

Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the second half of 2014, I read Juliet Marillier for the first time. The book was Dreamer’s Pool and as soon as I closed the cover on the last page, I asked myself the question most readers ask themselves right after they finish an amazing read: Why have I waited so long to read this author? And inevitably, the next thought is: I must read more!

I know I say that a lot and I don’t always follow through, at least not right away. But something about Marillier’s writing struck me in a way that I knew I didn’t want to wait. So I decided to jump into her Sevenwaters trilogy, and not least because the first book Daughter of the Forest has been sitting in my to-read list for years – for shame! – and it’s time to remedy that.

The book introduces us to Sorcha, who should have been the seventh son of a seventh son, but she is loved no less for being a girl, the only daughter of Lord Colum in the kingdom of Sevenwaters. She grew up with her six doting older brothers, and the siblings could not have been closer despite their different personalities and walks of life. However, peace at Sevenwaters is shattered when their widower father is seduced into marriage by an evil enchantress. To stop the siblings from meddling, the witch curses them all, turning Sorcha’s brothers into swans. It’s up to Sorcha to lift the spell, but she has to undertake a long and difficult quest thrust upon her by the Fae to do so, all the while remaining silent until she completes it.

To those familiar with their fairy tales, this is of course a retelling of The Six Swans, one of the stories collected by the Brothers Grimm. It’s a pretty close adaptation, actually, though Marillier fleshes it out a lot more and sets her version in the medieval Celtic era. She does not stray too far from the source material, which ended up being perfect for someone like myself, who adores fairy tales but at times wishes someone to come along and give them the deeper, more detailed treatment. I was delighted to find the same sort of subtle vibe here that I experienced in Dreamer’s Pool, a heady mixture of magic and realism in a world where myths can come to life and yet remain grounded at the same time.

This is simply a gorgeous book, filled with pain and sadness but also hope, healing and love. There is a heavy element of romance in here, but it is so well embedded in the overall story that it hardly distracts, despite being so intensely passionate. It’s been a while since I found myself so moved by a relationship between two people. Daughter of the Forest, a fantasy novel at its heart, does a love story even better than some Romance novels out there, without even seeming to try.

There aren’t too many faults I can pick out here, other than some minor issues I had with the overprotectiveness of Sorcha’s brothers, especially towards the end. I think by then she has earned the right to speak for herself and tell her family what it is she wants, but she too remained meek and silent until things ended up resolving for her. But a gripe like this feels so minor when the rest of the novel was near-perfect, as well as in light of how much I loved the book overall.

Two books by Juliet Marillier under my belt, and now she is one of my favorite authors. This is a must read for her fans, new and old. I really can’t recommend this one highly enough, especially if you love fairy tales, mythology and legends.

6deec-5stars

Son of the ShadowsSon of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 2 of Sevenwaters

Publisher: Tor (May 18, 2001)

Author Information: Website

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Son of the Shadows may be the second book of the Sevenwaters series, but it is not a direct sequel. Instead, the story follows the youngest daughter of Sorcha, the brave young woman in Daughter of the Forest who was set upon a quest to save her six older brothers from a terrible curse – and succeeded. Liadan proves to be just as resourceful as her mother when she is abducted by outlaws on the road, managing to maneuver her way out of the dilemma by offering her healing services to an injured member of the group. This is also how she meets the Painted Man, the leader of the band known to be a cold and heartless killer.

Despite it not being a direct sequel, it is still perhaps necessary to read Daughter of the Forest first before tackling Son of the Shadows. Threads from the first book’s story carry over to this one, and if you aren’t familiar with them it is easy to become confused or lost. In fact, as someone who jumped into this book right after reading the first one, I still feel like I’m missing something. The meddling Fae are back, reminding us that there is still a prophecy to be fulfilled and a darkness to vanquish. Sorcha may have set Sevenwaters on the right path, but it is up to Liadan to take up the mantle now and continue what her mother started. However, nothing really develops in the grander scheme of things; we don’t get to see the great evil rear its ugly head even once in this novel, and I’m not sure if the Fair Folk’s prophecy progresses that much at all.

For all that, Son of the Shadows was an enjoyable read, almost as much as Daughter of the Forest. It does lack a bit of the cohesion I found in the first book, which had a clear direction given how it was a very faithful retelling of a well-known fairy tale. Marillier plays around more with her characters and plot with this one, having freer reign to do as she pleases with the story. For one thing, the romance here is much heavier and more in the forefront. Liadan and the Painted Man fall swiftly for each other, whereas Sorcha’s relationship in the previous book was a much slower burn. The love story elements are more overt and in your face this time around and doesn’t come across as naturally, but it’s still very deep and full of passion.

Still, it’s an excellent follow up and a worthy addition to the saga of Sevenwaters, which looks to have more in store. It’s clear now that there’s a lot more to the narrative, and the effects aren’t going to be limited to just a few characters. Instead, multiple generations in the same bloodline will be touched forever. Son of the Shadows is different from the first book, but in a good way. And it doesn’t stray too far from the overall themes that I’ve come to appreciate about this series, mainly the fairy tale and mythological undertones to the setting and story. And of course, Marillier’s writing is beautiful as always.

This book is put together slightly less elegantly and doesn’t tread as lightly as its predecessor, but I still loved it.

4 stars

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30 Comments on “Backlist Burndown: Sevenwaters 1 & 2 by Juliet Marillier

  1. It’s a nice idea. I think I know about the name of the author, but I need to look at her books to be sure. In any case it’s nice to see that you had a good time with these two novels even if in the end they’re quite different too. thanks for the reviews!

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    • Juliet Marillier has written quite a lot of books, both adult and young adult so I woudln’t be surprised if you’ve heard of her or even read some of her work at some point!

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  2. I remember getting the second book from the library, taking it home and then realizing I hadnt read the first, and was so torn on whether to just throw myself into book two. In the end I made the choice to take it back and order the first. It never came. 😦

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    • Damn what a shame! Any way to hunt down the first book again, or was that too long ago? It’s such a great book though, maybe the library will have the first and you can give it a go again one day.

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      • We then moved house. So different library and It was one of those books that I put on the backburner. UNTIL NOW! So adding them to the wishlist because the universe is telling me to read these 🙂

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  3. I haven’t read any of Juliet Marillier’s work yet, but after reading some fantastic reviews for Dreamer’s Pool over the fall, I know I should. I’m assuming Dreamer’s Pool and Daughter Of The Forest are completely separate stories (not in the same series, I mean)… but which of the two would you recommend for a newbie? (To be honest, though, your review of Daughter Of The Forest convinced me I kind of sort of REALLY NEED to read that book soon. *lol*)

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    • Completely separate, so don’t worry which one you start first. I’m hard pressed to say which is better to begin with, actually…because they’re both so good! I guess it depends on what kind of story you’re in the mood for. DotF is based on a fairy tale and is a pretty faithful retelling. Dreamer’s Pool on the other hand is an original tale but has a lot of magical, fairy-tale like elements.

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  4. Wow a double review! You have been busy! This makes me want to hurry up already and read Dreamer’s Pool…glad to know her older books are amazing as well.

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  5. Wow, I’ve just bought Daughter of the Forest – now I want to read it immediately. But I also have Dreamer’s Pool – does it matter which I read first? They’re not connected are they??
    Also, look at everybody doing this backlist burndown – makes me feel very tardy!! I need to get on it!
    Lynn 😀

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    • Nope, doesn’t matter which you read first! I believe the Sevenwaters series is done. Dreamer’s Pool on the other hand is a new novel and the start of a new series called Blackthorn and Grim. Both books are excellent, you can’t go wrong with starting with either!

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  6. These definitely sound like my kind of books. I didn’t want to read your review for the second one for fear of spoilers, though! 🙂 I never know how to write reviews for sequels – are spoilers allowed or not?

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    • No worries! I don’t believe in spoilers in reviews, so mine are generally spoiler-free unless stated otherwise with plenty of warning. But I understand, I too “review-skim” especially when I see that it’s a book I’m going to read very soon, as I hate to bias myself 🙂

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    • I know, right? Daughter of the Forest has been on my list for years, one of those cases I really wished I’d gotten to it earlier. Well, better late than never.

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  7. I think I have the first book sitting on my bookshelves, though I haven’t read it yet. Probably because I’m half afraid of loving it and not having access to the rest of the series. :p

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  8. I bought Daughter of the Forest a few years ago – because the fairy tale it comes from is one of my favourite, I have to confess 🙂
    In spite of many excellet reviews, I haven’t read it yet.
    Think I have to do something about it soon.

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    • Nice, I didn’t even know about the original fairy tale until I started this book and looked it up and found out the details 🙂 It was nice having it as a reference to see what Marillier did with the story.

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  9. More love for Marillier! Seems like I have to get these books out of the library. Didn’t realise that they (well, the first one at least) was based on a fairy tale… makes me all the more curious.

    Also, do you know if all the books in her Sevenwaters series are about different characters and not direct sequels?

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  10. I love this meme. This is a fantastic meme. And you know that I’ve been a long-time fan of Marillier, but I’m ashamed to admit . . . that I haven’t read these either. I have (at least) the first book, and you’ve definitely made me want to get it sooner, rather than later (than it already is). I really hope you check out Wildwood Dancing. It was one of my favorites when I read it, and I’ve been meaning to reread since I finished Dreamer’s Pool over the holidays (b/c, YES, amazing). Again, I love this meme.

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  11. Pingback: 5 on the 5th: Five Fantastic Speculative Fiction Blogs | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

  12. I love this series, though I think that she does better writing stand alone stories rather than trying to tie overarching plots into the backgrounds because I don’t think those resolutions really get the attention or impact they deserve when she keeps switching protagonists from one book to the next. But she is a fantastic author and it’s always nice to see new books on the shelves with her name on them.

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