Daughter of the Forest: Book One of the Sevenwaters Trilogy

Written by Juliet Marillier
Review by Sarah Johnson

Children of a wealthy landholder in early medieval Ireland, Sorcha of Sevenwaters and her six elder brothers grow up surrounded by lakes and woods, under the watchful eye of the Lady of the Forest and their late mother’s spirit. Their father, a cold, distant man, has continued, with the aid of his older sons, his own father’s ancient wars against the Britons who have overrun their country.

Two things happen to change their way of life. First, a young Briton is taken prisoner and tortured by their father’s men. Sorcha’s sympathetic younger siblings, who hate war and what it represents, take considerable risk in rescuing him. Second, their father marries Oonagh, an evil sorceress who wishes to rid herself of all seven so that her own future children can inherit. She fashions a unique punishment for the six brothers, and it’s up to Sorcha to break the spell – though she may wander far and come close to death many times in the process.

Lovers of Celtic lore will no doubt know the “Swans” myth on which this novel is based, yet Marillier includes many a unique twist to the tale. In her story the competing religions of Celtic Paganism and Christianity mingle and intertwine, as well as do the lives of members of the warring Irish and Briton tribes — who may not really be so different after all. Having recently finished The Wild Swans by Peg Kerr, a similar retelling of “Swans” set in a later time, I wished the overall story wasn’t so familiar; perhaps future tales will be more wholly original. In all, though, I eagerly await upcoming novels in this series.