Desert Isle Keeper
Daughter Of The Forest
Juliet Marillier’s debut novel, Daughter Of The Forest has only one flaw, as far as I can tell, and that it is terribly unsatisfying – because it leaves the reader desperately craving more. Luckily, it’s the beginning of a trilogy, although I have a hunch that three books will not be enough to tell all the stories I want to hear.
Sorcha of Sevenwaters is the seventh child of a seventh son, the only daughter and final child of a mother and father bound mystically together, and then horribly, fatally separated at Sorcha’s birth. As their father turns to war to keep from despair, it falls to Sorcha’s six doting brothers to raise her, and so they do. Together they stand, seven, indivisible, strong in their love for each other. Liam is the eldest and their leader and protector. Diarmid, the handsome and charming one, is full of passion. Cormack and Conor are twins – the first a soldier through and through, the second a scholar and a mystic, and a different sort of leader. Finbar is rebellious and otherworldly and Padraic is a mechanic and lover of animals. And Sorcha herself, the healer, is the strongest of them all.
One day their father brings home a wife to mother them, a woman of pure evil, who strikes out at their passions one by one, trying to separate the seven, while sweetly playing the innocent to their ensorcelled father. When she succeeds in entrapping the brothers in her spell, it is up to Sorcha, Daughter of the Forest, to undo it – a task that is far harder than it appears and will take far longer than she suspects. In the grand tradition of Irish faerie tale, she struggles long and hard to set her brothers free. But the odds seem turned against her, especially when she is taken from her homeland, away from her forests. Can the seven ever be one again?
The rich and beautiful storytelling of this story enthralled me, giving the rarest of literary gifts – the complete loss of real time and place, as I literally forgot I was reading a book, and became Sorcha. In this way and others, the book seems a direct descendant of another great heroine’s epic, The Mists Of Avalon. While less complicated than Marion Zimmer Bradley’s masterpiece, it is no less enrapturing, and will leave the reader begging for more. It’s no mistake, I’m sure, that cover has clearly been designed to remind the reader of Ms. Bradley’s work, and I doubt that anyone could be disappointed by the lush and well-crafted story within.
Sorcha is a brilliant heroine, a first person storyteller who has revelations that the reader will perhaps guess before the character does, yet she never seems stupid or uninformed. She is strong and fascinating, yet her brothers are all equally as fascinating, making me wish for six other versions of the same story. With so many siblings, one would guess that it could become confusing, yet each brother has a distinct personality, and a story of his own to tell.
While this is first and foremost a fantasy novel, there is an undeniably romantic thread that flows through it, all the way to its unusual and beautiful ending. There is also adventure, and violence, pain and joy so sharp they threaten to cut at the reader’s own heart. When the story has at last run its course, the reader will be eager to know what happens next. Fortunately, it’s only the beginning of a trilogy that promises more of all the above, though I remain doubtful that it will ever be enough to satisfy my own desire for more.
For all lovers of fantasy, myth, magic and faerie tale, I recommend this unexpectedly brilliant debut. May the following books bring us ever more.