This is a review of “Daughter of the Forest” by Juliet Marillier. It is the first novel in The Sevenwaters Trilogy.
[This is most probably my favourite historical fantasy series!!]
Based on a folk tale that has many differing versions, (“The Six Swans”) this book is set in ancient Ireland. The Sevenwaters family has seven children. Sorcha is the youngest, and the only female. She was meant to be the seventh son of seventh son, but to her Father’s dismay she was born a girl, and shares the same visage of her late mother, who died giving birth to her.
Sorcha is a healer, she visits the townsfolk and administers herbal lore for their ills. Her brother Finbar aids in the rescue of a young Briton (the enemy) soldier, Simon, and he asks Sorcha to take care of him in secret at the home of a Christian Monk, a hermit. She makes a promise to Simon not to leave until he is fully well. She is forced to break her promise however, and returns to find him gone.
A wicked evil comes to the home of Sevenwaters, in the guise of a beautiful woman. She enchants Colum (the father of the children) and creates an even bigger distance between him and his children. As the children try desperately to rid themselves of her influence, she comes upon them and casts a spell. The six brothers are transformed into swans, Sorcha barely escapes.
She is told by the Fair Folk, that the only way to get her brothers back is to let no words cross her lips and to fashion six shirts from a painful stinging nettle. Until these garments are completed, her brothers will only take human form once a year. Sorcha stoically endures her fate, living in the forest near her home with her brother’s dog Linn. One day she is brutally violated by a group of men and the dog is killed. Her brothers exact retribution but Sorcha has been forever scarred by the experience.
Not long after, she is rescued from drowning by a Briton. He takes her back to his home, bewildered by her silence and her insistence to injure herself by making the strange garments of stinging nettle. The Briton is a Lord, he is Hugh of Harrowfield and is nephew to the man mounting attacks on Sorcha’s father’s land. His men affectionately call him Red. He believes Sorcha has information about his missing brother, Simon-and indeed she does, but she cannot speak to tell him.
The people of Harrowfield are wary of Sorcha and believe her to be a witch who has enchanted Red. He marries her to keep her safe, (he knows she fears men and says the marriage will be in name only) but this only deepens his people’s suspiscions.
Can Sorcha finish the shirts without speaking? And will she survive the strange ‘accidents’ that seem to follow wherever she goes? And what of Red, her kind-hearted savior?
I LOVE this book!