Published in 1999, Daughter of the Forest is Juliet Marillier's debut fantasy novel. It's the first book in a highly lauded six volume series.
This book is so good. Sorcha is such a great character. She's spoiled and immature at the beginning, sure, but she's the youngest sister with six older brothers, so that's to be expected. She's also very skilled in healing and herbs and has interesting interests. Marillier does a great job of introducing just enough magic to the world that you know this is not our world, but it's not a world too far removed from our own history. I guess this is a retelling/extension of "The Six Swans" by the Brothers Grimm, but I didn't know that before I started reading and I'd never read the story before. (The whole short story is available for download/viewing here.)
But this book is also very hard to read. There are graphic depictions of sexual violence and other physical violence. Sorcha's journey is incredibly difficult to want to be a part of because no matter what she does or how much effort she puts into something, you always know something bad is going to happen. There's also no resolution with the evil stepmother, but I guess there are five more books in the series.
So, this is a good book, it really is. But I'm nervous to dive forward into more of the series because it was such a challenging read for me. In general, I can see why this series was so favorably received. 4/5 stars
Lines of note:
If you are lucky enough to grow up the way I did, you have plenty of good things to remember. And some that are not so good. (page 2)
What a delightful way to look back at one's childhood.
It wasn't like this in the stories. In the old tales, when a young man went forth to have adventures, he endured his trials and came forth triumphant. He became a leader, or acquired a magical skill, or at the very least wed a princess. Maybe all three. There was never any question, not even in the darkest moment, that the hero would conquer both his enemies and his self-doubt. (page 107)
Sometimes the meta-commentary in this book was spot on. Also, holy foreshadowing.
...sort of love that strikes like a lightning bolt, that clutches hold of you by the heart, as irrevocably as death; that becomes the lodestar by which you steer the rest of your life...(page 614)
Is this a thing? Do people really feel love like a lightning bolt? I have never felt this, only a love that has started as a tiny thing and flourished as you get to know someone.
"...The gift of such love is given to but few. You must make each day count." (page 636)
A rare bit of clunky dialogue. Even in this exaggerated world, this is not how people would talk.
...this meeting of spirits was as inevitable as the path of sun and moon across the sky. (page 638)
Do you believe in this sort of predestined thing? That you were supposed to meet your partner/get that job/have that child? Or do you think that your life could have been or maybe even should have been different if you'd just chosen a different path?
Things I looked up:
Tuath (page 5) - Old Irish term for the basic political and jurisdictional unit of Gaelic Ireland
Bodhran (page 34) - A frame drum used in Irish music ranging from 25 cm to 65 cm in diameter
Brithem (page 41) - A hereditary legal expert in medieval Scotland, charged with upholding the laws within one of the provinces of Scotland