by Juliet Marillier
First sentence: “Three children lay on the rocks at the water’s edge.”
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Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. She’s led an idyllic childhood, for the most part (aside from her mother’s death with Sorcha’s birth, and her father’s unwillingness to show any affection towards her after that), in ancient Erin, playing and exploring with her brothers in the forest behind their home. Then, as she hits the cusp of adulthood, her father remarries an enchantress who, for various reasons, becomes jealous of Sorcha and her brothers. When, in a moment of spite she turns the brothers into swans, Sorcha is devastated. And, even more so when she finds out the only way to break the curse is to sew shirts of a thistle plant without speaking until she’s done. It’s not an easy task, and only the love she has for her brothers can see it through.
A grand, sweeping retelling of the Brother’s Grimm tale, The Six Swans, it has a little bit of everything: magic, faeries, and, of course, romance. It’s set in ancient Britain/Ireland, which allows Marillier to explore the tension between the old ways and the newer religion. A grand book.
When Kelly suggested this as a buddy read, I jumped at the chance. She has the first part of our conversation at her blog; come back and read the rest when you’re done!
Melissa: I agree: when it’s done well, it’s a joy to read. And I thought Mariller balanced the fantasy and the history quite well. Have you read anything else by her?
Kelly: I have read Wildwood Dancing, which is a young adult novel that is also a fairy tale retelling. I quite liked it, so I am happy to have finally read something else by her. All of her books look really good, actually, and I even ‘collected’ her for a while because I just figured I was going to like her. I don’t have everything by her, obviously, because I have only actually read one book by her until this one. I think she is going to continue to be an author I enjoy. What do you think?
Melissa: I also read Wildwood Dancing, but I loathed it. Seriously. Which, I suppose, was part of my subconscious hesitation to read this one. But, I‘m glad I gave her a second chance; I liked this one a lot better. (And it’s unusual for me to like an adult book better than a YA one!) What did you think about the brothers, and the love triangle (of sorts)? Did it work for you?
Kelly: Really? I really like fairy tale re-tellings… They are one of my favourite parts of fantasy, so it is hard for me to find one I don’t like. I actually read a couple in the last few years that share the same fairy tale with Wildwood Dancing. Anyway, I really liked Connor. There was something compelling about him, but there were times near the end of the book where I was a bit shaken in that liking. Then, there was one conversation that he had with Sorcha and it made him appear better in my eyes again. I think that all of the brothers added something to the story and to their family. Do you mean Sorcha and her brothers as the triangle or Sorcha and the other two brothers?
Melissa: I generally like fairy tale re-tellings; I just had issues with Wildwood Dancing in particular. I liked Conor as well, though I’m not sure he was my favorite brother. I agree: there was a time near the end of the book when I wondered what he was doing. He was very out of character, and I’m not sure I quite bought the reasoning for it. I liked Sorcha’s relationship with Finbar at the beginning, and I found it interesting how the enchantment affected him. I liked Liam, as well; I felt he was a good eldest brother, fair and firm and yet loving. And I meant the love triangle with the British brothers. Did it work for you?
Kelly: I am not sure which brother was my favourite… Finbar was for a while in the beginning, but then he changed and I was never entirely sure what to make of him. He was a very brooding character. There were times where I felt really bad for him. As to the love triangle, I am not really sure. When it all played out, it seemed to make sense… And, I liked Red more than Simon. I think if the triangle wasn’t there it would have been a very different book and then I am not sure exactly how it would work out. I suppose it made sense for me and really, it was more the Fair Folk than the people themselves for a while there. Speaking of the Fair Folk, do you think the step-mother and the woman that constantly appeared to Sorcha really were the same people?
Melissa: Wow, I never even thought about that. Two sides of the same coin? I didn’t get that vibe, though I did feel like the step-mother was a part of the Fair Folk. I really liked Simon, for what it’s worth, though I can see the appeal of Red. I agree about it being a different book, though, without the love triangle. In this case, it made the book a better one. Anything else?
Kelly: I think the Fair Folk and her step-mother will be explained more in the second book. Then we will know if our thoughts are correct. See, I liked Red better. I knew that Simon would be upset, but Red was a more interesting character. Simon might have been, too, if the circumstances were different and we got to know him a bit better, but it is hard to say. I think that is most of the story covered without giving too much away. It was fun, though. I am glad we read this book together because otherwise I may never have got through it!
Melissa: Me, too; it’s always good to have extra motivation.