Review: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Daughter of the ForestThis book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

It’s March, time for all things Irish. Filling that place in this month’s offerings, Daughter of the Forest draws on the Children of Lir, an Irish myth. Juliet Marillier expands on this classic story in her debut novel.

Sorcha, only daughter of the Sevenwaters family, enjoys the protection and love of her six brothers and her kind–if often absent–father. She specializes in healing, while her brothers pursue fighting and politics. Life at Sevenwaters runs smoothly, with everyone fitting into a specific place. Alas, this tranquil existence is disrupted by their father’s re-marriage. Lady Oonagh, a sorceress, divides the family bit by bit until her worst curse falls upon the brothers, and their transformed into swans.

Distraught, Sorcha flees Oonagh, and encounters the blue-robed Lady of the Forest, one of the Fair Folk. She tells Sorcha of a way to break the curse, but it calls for Sorcha to weave each brother a shirt of nettles, and to remain completely silent until the task is complete. When Sorcha is kidnapped by Britons and taken into her family’s worst enemy’s estate, she fears that she will never free her brothers.

When she falls in love with Red, her captor and the household’s master, she fears more evil magic may have been set against her.

Daughter of the Forest presents a satisfying plot that contains several layers. The novel can be read as fantasy, romance, and adventure, all in one. Thankfully, the love story is not overdone. The primary focus remains balanced between the Sevenwaters curse, and the enmity between Briton and Ireland; that said, the love story is essential to the novel’s progression. Marillier strikes a firm balance between these conflicting elements.

While the author draws on Celtic mythology for the book’s framework, she adds a wonderful depth by making the main character a strong-willed woman in a male-dominated world. The author doesn’t paint the men as weak, though. The women–Sorcha in particular–display a depth and a power that will take readers by surprise.

Daughter of the Forest combines well thought-out characters with a richly realized world. Marillier’s first novel is engaging and quite thought-provoking.