I’m really happy with my book choices lately. Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest is amazing so far, and I believe it will be amazing ’till the very end.
This novel is a retelling of the fairy tale “The Seven Swans”, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s a story about six brothers and a sister, Sorcha, who will in the end have to save all of them. I believe this sentence from the Goodreads description portrays it perfectly:
Daughter of the Forest takes the reader to an Ireland on the edge where history and fairy tale meet.
The book has fantastical elements, but the magic feels so realistic that you almost don’t percieve it as something foreign or made up. It is also deeply rooted in Celtic folklore, and it speaks about the history of Ireland and Britain, where different nations lived, fought, and coexisted. At times it felt like reading historical fiction.
One thing I’ve noticed, which may not be that important to everyone, but is very important to me, is the way this book deals with animals and nature. Respect which the characters show towards nature is very true to Celtic beliefs (I’m not an expert on this, but I’ve read about it quite a lot). It is stressed many time just how important nature is, and I think this is something we should hear more often. The villain of the story shows her true nature by doing bad things not only to people, but also to the plants. Animals are treated with respect. One of the brothers saves a dog, loyal Linn who appears all the time in the book (at least for now). Another brother saves a wounded owl, and cries as he lets her fly free. Sorcha doesn’t even eat animals, and I was so happy to read that, since it is not that common to have vegetarian characters.
I had not eaten flesh or fish since I was a small child, for I had always felt a closeness with other creatures that made my senses revolt at the very idea.
Then, there’s also her reason for not wearing shoes:
“I need no shoes, Father,” I said, hardly thinking. “My feet are tough, look,” and I raised one narrow, grubby foot to show him. “No need for some creature to die so I can be shod.”
I was so excited to read this, as I, too, don’t wear leather at all. And then, this book is also against war, and it makes it clear that people shouldn’t be judged by their nationality. So many good messages! This is what one of the brothers, Finbar, says to Sorcha:
“But there are two sides to every fight. It starts from something small, a chance remark, a gesture made lightly. It grows from there. Both sides can be unjust. Both can be cruel.”
Sorcha is kind and loving, but she’s also smart and she always speaks her mind. She knows how to make potions and is a very good healer. It is clear that she is proud of who she is, and that she doesn’t want to change for anyone.
“Why should I be polished and improved like goods for sale? I might not even want to marry! And besides, I have many skills, I can read and write and play the flute and harp. Why should I change to please some man? If he doesn’t like me the way I am, then he can get some other girl for his wife.”
Of course, good messeages don’t necessarily make a good book, but this book IS good. It is interesting, thought not too fast-paced. It gives you time to get to know the characters, without being too descriptive or slow. I really hope it’ll stay this good until it’s finished.
Have you read Daughter of the Forest? Do you want to? Feel free to let me know. 🙂