Next up: “Daughter of the Forest”, “Son of the Shadows”, “Child of the Prophesy”, “Heir to Sevenwaters”, “Seer of Sevenwaters”, and “Flame of Sevenwaters” by Juliet Marillier.
The first book is based on a fairy tale (The Six Swans), but the rest just build on the world and characters. There may or may not be more books added to the series; each book has a different main character, and ends in what could be a complete conclusion.
The series is set in ancient Ireland, in a place called Sevenwaters. The series as a whole covers four generations of sons and daughters of Sevenwaters. It marries historical fiction with elements of spirituality and fantasy. The very first book is a retelling of the fairy tale “The Six Swans”. The other books are not retellings, but continue the beautiful setting and tone of the first.
The first book follows Sorcha, the seventh child born to the lord of Sevenwaters, and the only daughter. She grows up without a mother, but is doted on by her six brothers, and is held in great fondness by others within Sevenwaters. She is a young woman when her father brings home a strange woman to be their new mother, and it quickly becomes apparent that Lady Oonagh is a sorceress with designs upon Sevenwaters. However, Sorcha and her brothers stand in the way of her plans. Oonagh therefor sets a spell upon them. Sorcha flees to the forest, and her brothers are turned to swans. She learns from the Fair Folk that she can save her brothers by making six shirts of the nettle-like and poisonous starwort plant, all the while not speaking a single word. But Lady Oonagh is not the only danger in the world, and Sorcha must rise to meet several challenges, finding the strength in herself to be the heroine of her story.
I’ve said it before, but I love retellings. So much. And this one is particularly good because it adds several things that I also love to the fairy tale– there are threads of Celtic myths in the story, magic, and a historical setting. It is very skillfully wrought. And Marillier carries the world and characters through the entire series well; each book builds upon the last, and fit very well despite their departure from the fairy tale origin. Marillier’s tone is one that I enjoy very much; I’m not entirely sure how to describe it, but ‘quiet’ seems the best word. These are books that feel like dreams; they aren’t full of wild action or grand battles, but carry you along for an adventure all the same.
Each book follows different characters, so sometimes I missed having this or that character, but there are a lot of cameos so it isn’t too terrible. Every book is told from a young woman’s perspective, a daughter of Sevenwaters. The women are generally fit into typically feminine roles (no warrior princesses here, but rather healers and such), but they aren’t weak for it. Each of them is the heroine of her story, some of them with more pluck than others. I do have to admit that if you want empowerment and the challenging of gender roles, you won’t find it here, but you also won’t find damsels in distress waiting for a knight in shining armor to save them.
The books are sort of formulaic in the sense that each young woman has to face a challenge that pushes them from their comfort zones, that calls for them to own up to their inner strengths, and that in the journey they find true love. I’ve never really been bothered by this, because the journeys are different enough that the stories are enjoyable. The only book that I didn’t really care for was “Seer of Sevenwaters”, because the main conflict was a little too… subdued. Everything was too subdued; the characters weren’t as compelling as the other books, the plot is glacially slow, and the romance just doesn’t do it for me (maybe because of a lack of connection to the characters?). The events in it don’t really seem impactful either; it doesn’t influence the events in “Flame of Sevenwaters” much at all.
These are about as close to romance novels as I can get. If I’m wanting to read something to get fluttery feelings in my heart, they’re often at the top of my list and they aren’t as objectionable in their portrayal of romance as a lot of books marketed as ‘romance’. And they have a good amount of plot besides the romance.
There is some violence of the sexual nature in some of these (most notably the first two books), but it is clearly portrayed as wrong and evil.