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Review by Lissa Sloan: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Though her mother died when she was born, Sorcha spent her early years safe, loved, and cared for. She had an education and a purpose and became skilled with herbs and healing at a young age. The only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters, Sorcha had six older brothers, and the seven formed a close bond, each sibling pursuing their own gifts and talents but always committed to one another. But after their father took a new wife, everything changed. When her brothers are turned into swans by their stepmother’s malevolent magic, only Sorcha can save them. To break the spell, she must finish a task that is lonely, excruciatingly painful, and surely impossible. But for those she loves, Sorcha will do anything.

 

Daughter of the Forest is Juliet Marillier’s retelling of “The Six Swans” set in Medieval Ireland. It is a time of much unrest as the Irish and the Britons, pagans and Christians, battle for supremacy in Ireland and across the water. The Fair Folk still linger in the forest surrounding Sevenwaters, and Sorcha and two of her brothers are gifted with magical connections to one another. But Sorcha's gifts won’t help her fulfill her task—she must have strength, faith, and pure grit simply to endure her ordeal, let alone break the spell.

 

I am shocked I had never read this extraordinary classic of fairy tale fantasy before. But it came along right when I needed it. Daughter of the Forest is a powerful examination of the effects of trauma, taking on depression, anxiety, and self-harm, as well as suffering and guilt. This is a beautiful story of transformation in which happy endings are not neat and tidy, and every bit of healing and growth is earned, even when the scars are not deserved. I believe great art always costs its creator something, and it’s clear to me that Juliet Marillier has given generously in the making of this moving tale.

 

Lissa Sloan is the author of Glass and Feathers, a dark continuation of the traditional Cinderella tale. Her fairy tale poems and short stories have appeared in The Fairy Tale Magazine, Niteblade Magazine, Corvid Queen, Three Ravens Podcast, and anthologies from World Weaver Press. Visit Lissa online at lissasloan.com, or connect on Facebook, Instagram, @lissa_sloan, or Twitter, @LissaSloan.

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