Juliet Marillier wrote one of my all time favorite books, Daughter of the Forest. Having read it prior to becoming a cannonballer I can’t technically review it here. However this book is so good and so relatively unknown that it deserves a brief mention. It is an epic Celtic fairytale based on The Six Swans. When Sorcha’s brothers are turned into swans, she is the only one who can save them, although the price is her almost unbearable silence and servitude. This book is gorgeous and lush, the pace is crisp (despite the silent protagonist), and the ending is somehow both painfully romantic and heartrending. Five stars.
So like anybody who finds an amazing book, I went on to read almost everything else the author has written. The Sevenwaters Trilogy (of which Daughter of the Forest is the first) are all pretty good. Of course the second two don’t quite live up to the breathtaking first book, but when you start that strong it’s hard not to suffer a bit in comparison.
Her second series is based in a fictional land called Fortrui which is loosely based on the pictish people in Scottland. Blade of Fortrui is the second book. It focuses on Ana, a lady of noble blood, who is sent to marry a unknown lord and secure a much needed treaty for her King. Faolan, the King’s friend, adviser, and assassin, travels with her to ensure she is safe and that the treaty goes through as needed. As they travel Faolan realizes that Ana is not the pampered and useless princess he thought her to be. Ana realizes that Faolan is not the heartless killer she thought him to be. Faolan falls in love with Ana. Ana seems mildly fond of Faolan.
When we meet Ana’s betrothed, Alpin, he unfortunately turns out to be a bore and a bully. But this treaty is more important than Ana’s desire to not have to copulate with this gross person who frequently reaches over to tweak her boob. Gentlemen – please note – boob tweaking is not an effective seduction technique.
Faolan is unable to talk to Ana because Alpin is also a jealous bully. But she does meet, briefly, Alpin’s unbelievably gorgeous brother, Drustan, who is kept in shackles hidden in the basement. Drustan may possibly be a killer, insane, or both. Of course they find a way to chat through a crack in the wall which leads to them falling desperately in love with each other. Obviously.
The story which started on fairly shaky ground begins to dissemble at this point. There is a somewhat awkward love rectangle (Faolan, Alpin, Drustan, and Ana). Ana is a total Mary Sue. Drustan is never give much to do except be beautiful. Alpin is a one dimensional Snidely Whiplash. Faolan is somewhat more interesting in that he has some depth and backstory although we are told far too often how clever and amazing he is, we don’t actually see him do much of anything.
The second half of the book starts skipping between our uncomfortable love rectangle and a critical battle (which necessitated the treaty that launched the whole book) and frankly the battle is so disconnected from the primary story that I skimmed most of it. I don’t think I missed much except for the fact that the King inexplicably trusts somebody he barely knew and clearly shouldn’t have trusted.
Frankly after this book I should be finished with Juliet Marillier. But the last book follows Faolan’s exploits and I’m just (barely) interested to want to see it through to the end. Damnit.
Daughter of the Forest will remain on my bookshelf to be read again. So skip this unromantic mess and pick up Daughter of the Forest.