Archives for posts with tag: Marillier

Yours Until Dawn Book Cover

In A Nutshell

    • Genre: Romance, Angst, Regency England, Historical Romance
    • Notes: Fluffy but with a plot strong enough to keep you interested the whole time.
    • Recommended For: People who like the Beauty as Florence Nightingale meets the Beast plots.

Proof that sometimes the run-of-the-mill romance novels can surprise you . . . I took a chance on this one because of it’s high rating on Goodreads and it’s synopsis reminded me so much of my favorite fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, that I knew I had to give it a shot. I really love it when romance authors draw from the fairy tale plots and use that story as a skeletal structure and give the reader something to enjoy that also holds a sense of nostalgia. Another successful retelling of Beauty and the Beast that I’ve reviewed on this blog is Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier. While both of these books draw from the same source material, the results are emphatically separate.

Marillier’s book is completely steeped in Irish Mythology and celtic legends and so it’s result plays more with the fantasy, mystery and magic of the original fairy tale. Yours Until Dawn on the other hand plays up the victimized “beast” character in Gabriel and introduces a new kind of “beauty” in Samantha who is his strict, but caring, nurse.

SYNOPSIS

Gabriel Fairchild’s valor during battle earns him the reputation of hero, but costs him both his sight and his hope for the future. Abandoned by the fiancée he adored, the man who once walked like a prince among London’s elite secludes himself in his family’s mansion, cursing his way through dark days and darker nights.

Prim nurse Samantha Wickersham arrives at Fairchild Park to find her new charge behaving more like a beast than a man. Determined to do her duty, she engages the arrogant earl in a battle of both wit and wills. Although he claims she doesn’t possess an ounce of womanly softness, she can feel his heart racing at her slightest touch. As Samantha begins to let the light back into Gabriel’s life and his heart, they both discover that some secrets — and some pleasures — are best explored in the dark …

I enjoyed reading this very fluffy and fun book. It’s not often I find Regency Romances, that contain a good amount of angst, fun. Medeiros’ style, in this novel, reminds me greatly of Julia Quinn’s ability to play up humor alongside heart and angst. That being said, it’s not the best regency romance novel I have every read. It wasn’t always a driving plot that kept me awake through the night, but it was able to surprise me with it’s twist towards the end. It’s not an earth-shattering twist but I didn’t see it coming and it made the book stand up and make me take notice.

As for the characters, Gabriel is a bit whiny in the beginning. He plays up the role of solitary, victimized hero in a completely predictable way and Samantha responds in the expectably strict, but caring nurse way. All that predictability being said, I was continually curious as to why Samantha sought out the position and Medeiros keeps you guessing.

You could say this book was an unexpected surprise as I expected to be reading the same-ol’ same-ol’ regency romance and I found a mysterious, light, and sensual romance. So if you’re looking not to think too hard but want a book with a more substance than the “Cotton Candy Novels” I mention in another review then this is your book.

★★★1/2

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Daughter of the forest cover image

In a nutshell

  • Genre: Fantasy, Folklore Retold, Adventure, Romance
  • Notes: One of those books that reminds you why reading is so much more engaging than tv or movies.
  • Recommended for: Fantasy lovers, fans of The Mists of Avalon and similar female-centric fantasy novels.

A beautiful book written for those who love giving themselves over to a story . . . I remember when I first picked up this novel. I had just finished The Mists of Avalon and I had loved how that story was told, but I wanted a book that felt closer to one heroine instead of several. My friend recommended I pick this one up and I did.

Now, I picked it up when I had just started college and there is a little bit of exposition that I found tedious as I was extremely busy at the time. So after about 50 pages I put the book down and forgot about it.

Then around winter break I found it right where I had left it and picked it up again – and then I couldn’t put it down.

Before I get ahead of myself let me show you the review:

A beautiful retelling of the Celtic “Swans” myth, Daughter of the Forest is a mixture of history and fantasy, myth and magic, legend and love… To reclaim the lives of her brothers, Sorcha leaves the only safe place she has ever known and embarks on a journey filled with pain, loss and terror. When she is kidnapped by enemy forces and taken to a foreign land, it seems that there will be no way for Sorcha to break the spell that condemns all that she loves. But magic knows no boundaries, and sorcha will have to choose between the live she has always known and a love that comes only once. –Barnes & Noble.com

Ok – beyond the fact that after reading that overview and realizing that B&N does not spellcheck their writing – eh hem – we can move on to business.

Yes, DotF is a retelling of the celtic legend of the Six Swans which is about an only daughter who loses her 6 brothers when they are turned into swans. In DotF, the story opens as Sorcha, our heroine and the youngest sibling to 6 elder brothers and daughter to a hard, distant, and somewhat cold father, is faced with many changes in a very short time. Right off the bat, Marillier gets you with her exquisite narrative. The story is told from Sorcha’s perspective and you can see her go from naive, innocent child to jaded yet wise young woman.

A completely unique part of this story is the fact that in order to get her brothers back, Sorcha must not speak or mutter any noise until she finishes a designated task. This makes her inner narrative so rich and full and makes her perspective about how people interact with her very intriguing. Before this book I had never read a story where the main character could not speak, but what and how she is able to communicate is a point that drives the story.

An aspect I want to clarify about this review is that while I did say this is a romance, and I do believe it is, it is much more of a coming of age story. The story centers around Sorcha and the trials she has to face and overcome in order to save her brothers. I also would like to warn that there are some pretty dark aspects of this story – it is not a young adult novel.

As for what I think could be improved . . . well I don’t know if this would improve the story but I would wish for some more insight into the character Red. Sorcha has such a difficult time reading him, that I sometimes lost his motivations. Now, that being said, I think the whole point is that Sorcha having trouble reading him is a key aspect of her character so I don’t know if it would improve anything.

But truly this story has it all for fantasy lovers: adventure, magic, mystery, witch hunts, suspense, suspicion, intrigue, and murder. It’s definitely one to be enjoyed in a comfy chair with a cup of tea on a long quiet day. Get lost in the beginning of the wonderful world of Sevenwaters . . . you can thank me later.

Rating: ★★★★★

Seer of Sevenwaters Cover

In a nutshell:

  • Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Saga, & Romance
  • Notes: Surprised me how much I enjoyed. Unlikely hero, likely Marillier heroine, and a story that keeps you guessing. A lovely addition, I wouldn’t read it as a stand-alone.
  • Recommended For: Fans of Marillier, People who love a new take on an old legend, Fans of The Mists of Avalon.

A seer who sees the future meets a man who can’t even see his own past . . . Marillier has done it again – made me want her to write more and more novels in the sevenwater’s series. Here’s hoping! Before I get ahead of myself I should show the synopsis:

Sibeal of Sevenwaters, the teen fifth daughter of the Lord of Sevenwaters, has always known she wants to be a druid. In this romantic follow-up to 2008’s Heir of Sevenwaters, Sibeal’s uncle Ciaran, her mentor, orders her to spend a summer on the sheltered island of Inis Eala, away from her training, to determine whether the contemplative life is truly for her. At first, Sibeal thinks that Ciaran is punishing her. Then a sudden storm brings a shipwreck and several mysteries that challenge Sibeal’s resolve and vocation. Why does the Norseman Knut seem to be holding something back from the islanders, and if Svala is Knut’s wife, why is she so terrified of him? And who is the handsome, amnesiac man Sibeal has found washed up on shore? Readers will thrill to this strong, heartfelt tale of the Sevenwaters family and their magical exploits.

I think I have to be clear that my opinion of this novel is colored by my entire experience with the previous Sevenwater’s books. That being said, I don’t know how much I would enjoy Seer of Sevenwaters as a standalone novel. I think it’s still a wonderful book, but so much of the enjoyment is hearing about the characters you’ve read about in the past novels and seeing where they continue to grow. That’s one of Marillier’s best points as an author. A character in her series is never finished, she develops them to the end and beyond. In fact, directly after reading this book I went back to the first novel The Daughter of the Forest and I was amazed how well woven the entire series is.

While I felt that one of the strongest points of this book was its continuation in developing the characters plot lines from the previous novel, I could also seeing it be a detracting factor. For those who aren’t familiar with the previous novels, reading this as a stand alone may seem confusing at points. I also sometimes felt as if the insight into the secondary characters took away the reader’s attention from the primary characters and that made it seem like those characters story’s were rushed.

Speaking of strong aspects of this book: I really enjoyed the unconventional plot line of having a woman’s inner struggle to be between choosing a life of holy vocation or a life as a wife and mother. You really don’t read many books where a woman is choosing between a spiritual leader role and a man. Some might feel that most books have a woman making a hard choice between A or B, but it’s definitely a twist on the same-old.

Another thing that Marillier does extremely well with her characters: is her ability to make a character a hero without forcing them into a macho or warrior role. If anyone is a warrior in this book, it’s definitely Sibeal. She will follow the will of the gods off a cliff, but not in an ignorant way. If that makes sense. But Ardal – he is certainly no warrior. A poet, academic, philosopher – but not a fighter of men. Nonetheless I found him to be one of the bravest heroes in the Sevenwaters Series.

Overall I enjoyed the book immensely. If I had one true criticism it would be: I found the ending lacking. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a book is amazing and thorough only to end rushed and abruptly. While I didn’t find this abrupt, I found I was left wanting more. And not just more Sevenwaters (I always want more Sevenwaters.) I wanted to feel the ending in a more complete way.

Bottom Line: If you enjoyed the previous Sevenwaters, than I don’t even know why you are reading reviews, when you should be finding this book and if you enjoy legends retold, with feminist overtones, spiritual undertones, and a love story, this is the book for you.

★★★1/2

In A Nutshell

  • Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Adventure
  • Notes: A celtic interpretation of the Beauty & The Beast legend.
  • Recommended for: Fans of Marillier and Fans of the story Beauty & The Beast

A different take on a familiar story . . . The synopsis is as follows:

Anluan has been crippled since childhood, part of a curse that has besieged his family. And only the young scribe Caitrin can unravel the web of sorcery woven by his ancestors before it claims his life-and their love…

Marillier is the best at taking old legends and re-writing them into beautiful Celtic stories featuring strong women. After all her original Daughter of the Forest is based on the Grimm’s The Six Swans story. Heart’s Blood delivers with subtle strength. I’m a big fan of Marillier and once I started this book I couldn’t put it down. Now I wouldn’t say it’s better than some of her Sevenwaters books, but it’s definitely up there.

First, Marillier picked one of my most favorite fairy tales: Beauty & The Beast. I was a Disney child and loved B&tB so much that I’ve read other adaptations of it including Robin Mckinley’s Beauty. But I haven’t found an adaptation that didn’t sit squarely in the Young Adult section of a bookstore. Heart’s Blood is mature story and is clearly directed not just to young women, but to women in general.

Second, as always with Marillier, are the characters. She is always able to create characters that you relate to and root for. Caitrin reminded me a lot of Liadan from Son of the Shadows. There is a problem with the synopsis. It emphasizes Anluan and doesn’t really show you that Caitrin, as the book opens, is not a perfectly strong girl. When the book opens she is running away from an abusive home. But even from that opening scene you know her strength. It’s never easy to pull yourself out of what seems like a hopeless situation, and from the first page you can’t help but respect her perseverance.

Anluan is a difficult but telling character. I really like how Marillier writes her men. Most books involving a romantic male lead focus solely on the Heroine and leave the hero to be a rake/rogue who eventually reforms and wins the girl. Marillier holds nothing back – her hero’s are not perfect, and neither are her heroines. Her characters are never perfect, but that’s why they are so great. Their imperfections make them human, and their struggle to right their wrongs make them interesting. Anluan is the leader of Whistling Tor, but because of a seizure when he was young he is now handicapped. But that isn’t even the largest part of his struggle. His land, and holdings are under a curse thanks to his great-grandfather. A curse that everyone writes off as hopeless, until Caitrin comes.

As for criticisms, the story moved slowly at points. I’m used to it because Marillier is very good at detail. The story is complex at points and once you get to the end you realize why the details are important to pay attention to.

My favorite aspect of this book? That I felt it ended in a proper way. So many authors write great stories and it’s like they get to a point where they go “OMG I’m so done with writing this story. I’ll just say the chick is pregnant and close up in three pages.” That drives me crazy. I honestly take a full star off of a rating if I found the ending to be shoddy and rushed. But not with H’sB. Marillier closes up this story like a weaver and loom, making sure every thread is set. I see in the title that this is part of a series and I’m really looking forward to the next installment.

Bottom line: If you want an easy romance novel – you should probably pick something else. But if you are a fan of Beauty & The Beast or you enjoy fantasy adventure with romance interwoven then you should definitely check this book out. Even if Romantic books aren’t your cup of tea – if you are feeling fanciful, you should check out this book. I recommend it for a long weekend, or a slow rainy day.

★★★★★

In A Nutshell

  • Genre: Fantasy, Romance (in that order)
  • Notes: You’ll enjoy it more if you’ve read all the books in this series before this one.
  • Recommended for: Marillier fans, Fans of The Mists of Avalon, and Anyone who enjoys reading about Medieval Irish  Folklore.

A New Kind of Sevenwaters Heroine . . . Around 5 years ago I read the first of the Sevenwaters Series and fell in love with Sorcha and Red and the entire world of Sevenwaters. I then grew to love the second novel, the third wasn’t my favorite, but I think I will do separate reviews for all of them later.

I was shocked to see that Marillier had continued the series as all the previous books in the series were written in 2007 and she really hadn’t touched it since then. Imagine my surprise when I found out she had written two more novels for the series. I was so excited I went and got Heir to Sevenwaters on my nook immediately.

For those of us who have not read the Series, I suggest you skip the rest of this review and go out and read Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters #1) by Juliet Marillier. You would not be wasting your money.

For those of you who have read the series or some of the series then you will enjoy this addition to the Sevenwater’s family. And in fact if you have not read Son of the Shadows many references to Johnny and his tattoo-faced warriors will be lost on you. As a side-note: I found SotShadows to be my favorite in the series so you really should read the first two. You can get by without reading Child of the Prophecy but I think that all of it is building to something so I would recommend it. Now that I have logistics out of the way, lets move on to what I thought. The general premise for the book is as follows:

The chieftains of Sevenwaters have long been custodians of a vast and mysterious forest-and a new heir has been born. But the family’s joy turns to despair when the baby is taken, and something unnatural is left in his place. To reclaim her newborn brother, Clodagh must enter the shadowy Otherworld and confront the powerful prince who rules there…

Clodagh is a really interesting protagonist. She is the oldest daughter living at home, her “more exciting” twin marries and moves away, and she takes over the running of the household while her mother, who is bedridden with a late-in-life pregnancy, cannot. She is told many times how well she takes over this role and while she is pleased to be helping, she finds it very sad that those comments might signify her greatest accomplishment in life.

I think perhaps the strongest part of this book is the fact that Clodagh is a completely different heroine compared to her predecessors Sorcha and Liadan. I could not really relate to Clodagh in many aspects but that made her more interesting to me. She’s an older sibling, used to taking charge, motherly, and able to be stern and exacting. In a great time of crisis for her family she rises above her stereotype and is brave enough to try to save her brother and her family and eventually her love through impossible odds.

Sorcha and Liadan were born leaders and seemed to be raised fearless. Clodagh has to face things she fears very deeply, but she learns things about herself she never knew. One of my favorite quotes from the book seems to convey that exact thought:

“A tree is never just a tree, it is bigger and deeper and wiser than a girl like you will ever be.”

Another aspect that really drew me to this book, compared to the others is how much our characters get to interact with the Olde Ones and other creatures of the Otherworld. Marillier has continued a story that started with DotForest with this plot line and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

As far as our Hero goes, Cathal isn’t traditional in everyday books, but very traditional as a Marillier Hero. He is awkward but strong, lonely but arrogant, and scarred with a mysterious past. I find many parallels between Cathal and Bran. But what I found to be very unique to Cathal was his brotherly-yet-rivalrous relationship to Aiden. As you read the book and see how we are introduced to them, the many different mysteries of their relationship are intriguing and their interactions with each other were never dull.

While I did not find this to be my favorite of the series – if you’ve read the others you will see why I think that way – that by no means detract from the value of this part of the series. I found this to be an invaluable addition to the series. I can state very firmly that The Sevenwaters’ Books are in my top 5 favorite Book series. If you are like me you will read them on a rainy day, in a comfy chair, with a warm mug of tea.

Overall Rating (Out of 5): ★★★★