Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier | Book Review

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Hello There

Last night, I finished reading Daughter of the Forest *quite late* and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. For the first time in a while, it motivated me to write an entire review, because there was so much I wanted to say, there is so much I loved about it and I thought it would be the occasion to start sharing my book reviews here as well! I read this book as part of #MythTakeReads, which is hosted by Ashleigh @ A Frolic Through Fiction and Charlotte @ Bookmarks and Vlogging.

🌸 What is Daughter of the Forest about?

This novel follows Sorcha, 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, but her joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible 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…

🌸 My thoughts on the book

I’ve been so curious about Juliet Marillier’s works for years now, because I feel like everyone adores them, Daughter of the Forest being their favourite, so I was really looking forward to finally reading it! Before I really get into the review, this book has a trigger warning for a graphic r*pe scene, so be cautious if you decide to read it.

Daughter of the Forest starts off when Sorcha is young and follows her from childhood into womanhood. It is quite dense and slow-paced, but I found that it was so worth it! I even devoured the second half of it, for I had to know what would happen to Sorcha, and I finished reading at 1:30 a.m., which rarely ever happens to me. This book was so immersive, beautifully written, felt like a fairy tale and I couldn’t get enough of it (which makes sense, considering it is a fairy tale retelling of The Six Swans)! I also really liked how it discussed the way sorcery was perceived and prejudiced opinions you can have on your (supposed) ennemies.

I adored reading from Sorcha’s point of view and felt close to her. I almost felt like her emotions and reactions were mine in some situations, and I admired her so much, she was such a quietly strong character. Moreover, her love for her brothers shone throughout and while there were six of them (which can be hard to keep track off), they all had a different voice and it was easy for me to remember them. One of my favourite things to read about in fiction is sibling dynamics in a big family; Daughter of the Forest totally delivered in that regard, I loved these siblings so much! I also came to care for so many of the secondary characters of the novel and I would love to see them again.

i-miss-you

I had read somewhere that Juliet Marillier was amazing at world-building and weaving folklore into her stories and I totally agree with that! This book is set in a medieval-inspired Ireland, where the Fair Folk meddles in mortal’s stories and magic and curses exist. The world-building was phenomenal, I felt like I was walking alongside Sorcha through the different landscapes and everything was so well-researched! I’m really excited to read more of Marillier’s works to get immersed in her magical worlds again.

Because it is set in a medieval world, Daughter of the Forest was really brutal. Truly, I understand some situations and how women’s choices were assumed without asking them, because that’s what was happening at the time and it was discussed and challenged in regards of the modern audience of the book, but it wasn’t the case for every situation. Indeed, I had some issues on the topic of age difference in the romance (I wish it had been developped more, the transition from Sorcha being considered a child to a woman felt rushed) and the way consensual and loving sex was glossed over when r*pe had been described at length. I’d probably have rated this book five stars if it weren’t for that.

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I really loved that a few storylines were left hanging open, I have a feeling some of them will be really important in the later books and I cannot wait to read about that. While I was finishing the book, I spent I don’t know how much time trying to find matching editions of the next two books, because I need to read them NOW.

If you can’t tell, I fell in love with this novel and while I have a few criticisms about it, I couldn’t stop reading it, I adored Sorcha and the other characters and I only want one thing: to go back to that world already. Daughter of the Forest was such a beautiful, heartbreaking and immersive story and I totally understand why people adore Juliet Marillier’s writing, I can see myself becoming a fan as well.

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lots of love

The Familiars by Stacey Halls | Book review

You probably know by now how much I adore history, considering I used to be a history major and find any excuse I can get to watch period dramas or read historical fiction (by a big plot twist, I even miss historical research a lot these days). So of course, I always browse the historical fiction section of Netgalley and that’s how I stumbled upon The Familiars, which I added on Goodreads really quickly: I mean, 17th century England and witch trials? I’ll read that, thank you very much. I got really excited when I was approved to read an e-ARC of it and as it’s releasing today, it’s time I talk about it some more!
 
 Published on: February 19th 2019 by MIRA
Genres: historical fiction, paranormal
Number of pages: 352
 
Goodreads summary: Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again. None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit, and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. Then Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor’s letter that carries a dire prediction: she will not survive another birth. By chance she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help her deliver a healthy baby. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft.
 
Is there more to Alice than meets the eye? Fleetwood must risk everything to prove her innocence. As the two women’s lives become intertwined, the Witch Trials of 1612 loom. Time is running out; both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.
 
Rich and compelling, set against the frenzy of the real Pendle Hill Witch Trials, this novel explores the rights of 17th-century women and raises the question: Was witch-hunting really women-hunting? Fleetwood Shuttleworth, Alice Grey and the other characters are actual historical figures. King James I was obsessed with asserting power over the lawless countryside (even woodland creatures, or “familiars,” were suspected of dark magic) by capturing “witches”—in reality mostly poor and illiterate women.
 
MY THOUGHTS
 
Disclaimer : I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.  All quotes I used in this review might have been changed in the final copy.

“She certainly looks like a witch. She is very thin and rough-looking, with black hair and a sullen face. My mother says never trust someone with black hair because they usually have a black soul to match.”

I have black hair.” (p. 26)

 
I have to admit that going into this, I didn’t know much about the Pendle Hill Witch Trials, I only knew Pendle because of Joseph Delaney’s Wardstone Chronicles (he got inspired from history so much for his Pendle, and my favourite book of the series is the fourth one, set there, what a surprise). Reading about those events was both frightening and fascinating, because of the awful fate these women were to know and it became even scarier when I read the author’s note and that Stacey Halls explained that all her characters had actually existed. In any case, I felt like I was in early 17th century Lancashire, Stacey Halls did a great job at recreating its atmosphere.

The names of the Lancashire Witches

 

Moreover, as said in the summary, The Familiars explored the rights of women in different ways, from gentry-born women to the poorer ones, who didn’t have wealth or status to protect them and it was really interesting. It showed how little choice, on their different scales, women had at that time. For Fleetwood, our gentry-born main character, it was about making a good marriage, then having to produce an heir for her husband, whereas for Alice, it was about keeping a job and surviving, when no one really cared about her: in a way, both only could count on themselves, and later on each other. On another hand, The Familiars explored the way men had power over women, whether it was through their marriages or even when it came to the law: they barely were held accountable for their actions, which the author discussed through the main character’s point of view.
 
“I remembered Alice’s words: I am afraid of lies. Now I knew what she meant: lies had the power to destroy lives but also create them.” (p. 198)

I adored the main character, Fleetwood, because I could relate to her so much. While she felt helpless, she never gave up and tried to do all she could to stay alive, then to save Alice, when she could have stayed in her comfortable, but imperfect, life. Her friendship with Alice was so heartwarming, because it was portrayed in a healthy way: the both of them had been brought together by Alice’s job as a midwife, but came to mean so much more to each other and to always be there for the other.

 
The Familiars started with exciting chapters before slowing down, then I wondered where the author was going and thought I knew, until it took me by surprise several times, which I loved. It had such a gloomy atmosphere as the story progressed, to the point that I could be as tense as Fleetwood. From the moment this novel first took me by surprise, I couldn’t stop reading, because I had to know what would happen next. It might have been a bit slow in the beginning, but it was all worth it as I kept thinking about the story, even when I wasn’t reading this novel.
 
On top of that, I really liked that the author always made me doubt whether the “witches” had magical powers or not. I found the theme of the familiars really interesting, as it had to do with natural magic and the way Fleetwood encountered magic was really well-written, as she was an outside point of view on the topic of magic. 
 
Last but not least, I can’t say much because it would be a spoiler, but I adored the very last chapter! I am often disappointed by endings, but it wasn’t the case at all here, I thought it was a perfect way to conclude!
 
Overall, if you love historical fiction and are intrigued by witch trials stories, I would totally recommend you this one! It portrayed a friendship between two women from different parts of society in a healthy way, had a gloomy atmosphere like I love and discussed the rights of women at the time. It was Stacey Halls’ debut, so I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for more of her works, because this one sure was amazing.
 
 
Do you like historical fiction? 
What is your favourite time period to read about?