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Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Daughter of the Forest

by Juliet Marillier

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,815872,067 (4.34)168
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Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
Daughter of the Forest, a retelling of The Swan Brothers, is both wondrous and heartbreaking. Of all the fairy tale retelling’s I’ve read, it’s among the very best.

Sorcha’s the only daughter of Lord Colum, a lord in dark ages Ireland. She and her six older brothers grow up happy and wild, learning the secrets of the forest that surrounds them, until her father brings home a new wife, who turns her older brothers into swans. The only way for Sorcha to save them is by making six shirts of thorns, remaining completely silent all the while. Through the greatest suffering and tragedy, Sorcha may not cry out.

In the past, the greatest struggle for me with retellings of this tale is that it’s hard to distinguish the six brothers and make the reader care about them. Daughter of the Forest, perhaps helped in part by its length, succeeded brilliantly at this. Within the first hundred pages, I knew and loved each brother. Fimbar in particular was my favorite, but Conor came in a close second.

Of course, the brothers pale in comparision to Sorcha herself, the heart and soul of the story. She’s the narrator and our view on the events. She’s the one who’s struggling. She’s the one on whom everything rides. Under all this pressure and all the suffering she undergoes, Sorcha remains strong. She sticks to her task and is able to heal herself. She’s one of the most admirable heroines I’ve come across, and she should be the benchmark for anyone writing strong female characters in historical fantasy or sexist fantasy world.

This is not an easy book to read. After the somewhat idelic beginning, it gets quite dark. Be warned that there’s a rape scene in the middle of the book and that it effects Sorcha’s physical and mental health for the rest of the story. Even the ending is bittersweet.

When Sorcha frees her brothers, they have all been profoundly effected and cannot go back to normal. Her brothers also don’t seem to realize that she’s changed and grown as a person and continue to treat her like the little girl she was in the beginning.

Don’t read Daughter of the Forest unless you’re willing to cry, but if you’ll willing to take it on, you will find a beautifully written tale of one girl’s triumph over adversity. ( )
  pwaites | Aug 1, 2014 |
In Daughter of the Forest, Sorcha is the only daughter and the youngest of Lord Colum’s children. She is pampered by her brothers and leads a fairly idyllic life until her father is taken in by an evil sorceress, an overplayed trope in fantasy fiction, and her brothers are turned into swans. This forces Sorcha to figure out a way to break the enchantment. In the process she finds love, and so on and so forth. I found this novel to be pretty weak and unimpressive. There’s nothing original about the story. The writing style isn’t particularly captivating and the plot leaves a lot to be desired. This is the first novel in this series by Juliet Marillier, and I don’t feel a particular need to read any additional entries in the series. This is one that I would skip.

Carl Alves – author of Blood Street ( )
  Carl_Alves | May 26, 2014 |
Most fairy tale retellings tend to be in the form of lighter fare - young adult or juvenile novels, or even comic books. Juliet Marillier’s epic Daughter of the Forest clocks in at over 500 pages (so it has some meat to it) and is a blend of historical fiction and Celtic mythology as well as being a retelling of the "Six Swans” fairy tale. Marillier goes into terrifically detailed descriptions of her setting - making ancient Ireland come alive on the page. I found it a bit overlong by the end and I may not read the sequels, but I definitely did enjoy it and I whole-heartedly recommend checking it out if you haven’t already.


Sorcha is the young daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. She has six older brothers, whom she is very close to - the seven children all take care of one another. Their mother is dead and their father an emotionally distant authoritarian figure, often away leading battles against their hated enemies the Britons. While three of Sorcha’s brothers seem happy to follow in their father’s warrior-king path, Padriac is more interested in inventing things and healing animals, Connor seems destined for a more mystical path as Druid, and Finbar is rebellious - a deeply sensitive young man, he is in tune with nature and openly questions their ongoing war with the Britons.

When a young Briton is captured by their father’s men and tortured, Finbar enlists Sorcha’s aid in helping him escape and hiding him with a nearby hermit monk. Sorcha is a skilled healer and the monk asks her to help care for the wounded youth. In doing so she learns that her own people are as capable of evil as their enemies. Her knowledge of herbs and ointments, as well as her gentle patience, kindness and skill as a storyteller enable her to help the boy heal somewhat both physically and mentally - although she is called away before her task is complete.

Marillier spends a lot of time setting up her world and characters, and it pays off. The world feels real and the writing is transportive. The level of detail in her descriptions of physical surroundings and daily life is incredible. The fantastic aspects of her world are elegantly subdued. Her characters all feel like real people and are deeply sympathetic, except for the two main antagonists who fall into the cartoony moustache twirling villain trope, but I have to admit - I loved to hate them.

Lady Oonagh is your traditional evil stepmother/sorceress and she transforms Sorcha’s six brothers into swans. The Fair Folk tell Sorcha she can lift the curse only by sewing six shirts for her brothers - shirts made of the thorny starwort weed. She must cut the plant, spin it and sew it all by herself and she must complete her task without uttering a single sound - not a word or scream or cry. The novel opens with Sorcha as an infant accidentally grabbing the plant and so we have seen the horrible pain that follows as the fiery needles dig into her skin. The pain, the complicated process and the destruction of her hands is so vividly described that I felt so much for poor Sorcha.

At first Sorcha lives alone in the woods, in hiding from Lady Oonagh, but eventually she ends up falling in with some Britons and going to live in a foreign land among her people’s enemies. Sorcha endures some horrible trials and terrible pain, but there is also healing. There is a romance and it is very tender and sweet.

Lord Richard is an over-the-top moustache-twirling type villain, but I actually really enjoyed him for what he was. There is a wonderfully suspenseful climax and I couldn’t put the book down for the last third or so. It has a wonderful ending and is emotionally satisfying. All in all, a very strong book and one of the best of the “fairy tale retelling” genre that I’ve ever read. Recommended, especially to fans of historical romance and fantasy. ( )
  catfantastic | Mar 19, 2014 |
I loved the atmosphere in this book. The woods, the magic, the fairies. The bond between Sorcha and her brothers was heart-warming. It was quite easy to lose myself in this book and live Sorcha's life alongside her. The reason I haven't given this 5 stars is mostly because of the ending. First, I was a bit disappointed in Sorcha's brothers' attitude after they were rescued. After all Sorcha has done for them, you would think they might trust her a bit more to make her own decisions. And you'd think that Sorcha would make this clear to them. Also, the end seemed to drag on a bit. I wasn't quite as captured by the story as I was in the beginning. But it was a lovely read and I'm definitely going to look for the sequels... ( )
  zjakkelien | Nov 9, 2013 |
This was a re-read of one of my all-time favorite fantasy books and I have to tell you I loved it just as much the second time through as I did the first and listening to the audio version only enhanced my love of it.

I still loved the characters of Sorcha & Red, this whole story is so beautifully written, Juliet Marillier is such a fabulous writer!

I thoroughly enjoyed this fairytale re-telling (The Wild Swans by, Hans Christian Andersen), this is not a story for the faint of heart, just a warning there is a rape scene, and this love story which to me is so secondary to Sorcha’s quest is chaste and doesn’t overpower the book at all. Sorcha’s quest will break your heart and it amazed me still even on re-reading/listening what a great strong woman she was.

I enjoyed the “magical” elements the fair Folk and the druids it all seems so normal and everyday that you totally believe these people truly lived in this time.

This was my first time listening to Terry Donnelly as a narrator at first I wasn’t sure about her because I was expecting more of an Irish accent from the characters at Sevenwaters but she really grew on me and I was enrapt with the book by the end and was very happy with her narration, I thought she put just the right amount of venom in the Uncle Richard’s voice. I see she narrates another one later in the series and I look forward to it and would definitely listen to this narrator again.

As I said I love Juliet Marillier’s writing she knows how to weave a tale so well that you believe every word. If you are a fan of the quest type fantasy give this series a try.

Still 5 Stars ( )
  susiesharp | Oct 9, 2013 |
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To the strong women of my family: Dorothy, Jennifer, Elly, and Bronya.
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Three children lay on the rocks at the water's edge.
You are the blood in my veins, and the beating of my heart. You are my first waking thought, and my last sigh before sleeping. You are - you are bone of my bone, and breath of my breath.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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French Version of Daughter of the Forest, but has been divided in two books
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0765343436, Mass Market Paperback)

At the heart of this surprisingly accomplished first novel, first book of the Sevenwaters trilogy, is a retelling of an ancient Celtic legend. Marillier's story, however, is much more than a slightly disguised fairy tale. Young Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Irish Lord Colum of Sevenwaters, a domain well protected from invading Saxons and Britons by dense forest where, legend says, fey Deirdre, the Lady of the Forest, walks the woodland paths at night. Colum is first and foremost a warrior, bent on maintaining his lands against all outsiders. Not all of his sons are so bound to the old ways, and that family friction leads to outright disobedience when Sorcha and her brother Finbar help a Briton captive escape from Colum's dungeon. Soon after, Colum brings home a new wife who ensorcels everyone she can't otherwise manipulate. By her spell Sorcha's brothers are cursed to become swans. Only Sorcha, hiding deep in the forest, can break the spell by painfully weaving shirts of starwort nettle--but then Sorcha is captured by Britons and taken away across the sea. Determined to break the curse despite her captivity, Sorcha continues to work, little expecting that ultimately she will have to chose between saving her brothers and protecting the Briton lord who has defended her throughout her trials. Marillier's writing is deft and heartfelt, bypassing the usual bombast of fantasy fireworks for a rich, magical story of loyalty and love. --Charlene Brusso

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:17 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

First in a new trilogy. Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Her joy is shattered when her widowed father is bewitched by an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell. Only Sorcha can lift the spell by staying silent. If she speaks before completing the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, she will lose her brothers forever. Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment. But Sorcha's joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift-by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever. When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all.… (more)

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