Heir to Sevenwaters

Written by Juliet Marillier
Review by Ann Chamberlin

Marillier returns to the world of her bestselling Sevenwaters trilogy in this historical fantasy. The house at Sevenwaters exists during a historically fascinating between-time when Christianity has come to Ireland and a man can have the name of Johnny, yet the family there is committed to protecting the ancient uncanny dwellers of the forest by which they live. One of five daughters of the household, Clodagh, seems destined to an uneventful life of housewifely duties until her mother gives birth to the longed-for son and heir—who, under Clodagh’s watch, is stolen by beings from the Otherworld and replaced by a changeling.

I have not read any of Marillier’s other work. Although the historical details and writing were solid enough, I have to confess that the first couple days of my reading were as dull as Clodagh’s life seemed destined to be. Of her vying suitors, neither seemed inspired. Dialogue, while sometimes energizing, more frequently seemed to bog the story down. We were told the forest holds many preternatural powers, but saw little indication of them. Even Clodagh’s ability to communicate over long distances with her twin was squelched when her sister married and asked to discontinue the bond. Around page 100, however, the little changeling appears, whom only Clodagh can see and hear, a wonderful creature, “mossy lids opening over pebble eyes, a little mouth shaped from twigs stretching to reveal brown, barky gums.” I was enchanted from that point on—well, until another spate of dull pages at the end heralds our heroine’s return to the mundane world. The power in this historical fantasy is definitely on the fantasy element, and for this time and place, it seems appropriate.