It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme created at Book Journey to catalogue everything read in the past week, what you’re working on now, and what you hope to get to in the coming week.

The Past Week

Spark by Brigid Kemmerer

Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier

Enthralled Anthology

Zombies Vs. Unicorns Anthology

Good Oil (Republished as Love and Other Perishable Items) by Laura Buzo

The Encyclopedia of Me by Karen Rivers

Archangel by Sharon Shinn

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron

Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson

The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg

Reading Now

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

The Week Ahead

Risking It All by Jennifer Schmidt

Released by Megan Duncan

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Review: Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

Having read my first Marillier novel, Daughter of the Forest, earlier this week, I was anticipating great things going into her young adult work Shadowfell. Unfortunately, her latest title failed to live up to my expectations, and I was left wondering whether its failings resulted from the crossover from adult to young adult fiction and, in fact, whether this was actually penned by the same author.

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

Stories based on fey lore have never captured my interest as much as those incorporating other myths, for some reason. A select few authors, however, have drawn me into their adaptations thoroughly despite my general aversion to faerie settings, such as Seanan McGuire, Patricia Brigs, and Karen Marie Moning. Upon reading Daughter of the Forest, I would have added Juliet Marillier to that list as well, yet Shadowfell made me doubt that initial inclination. Whereas Daughter managed to incorporate the fey in a beautifully subtle way, perhaps not altogether innovative, but nonetheless eerie and perfectly matched to the tone of the story, Shadowfell falls into the trap that perpetuates my distaste for fey-centered stories. The fey characters Neryn meets during her journey seem to step out of the forest straight from the pages of Katherine Briggs’s An Encyclopedia of Fairies, only without any modification to make them Marillier’s own. They’re short-fused, cheeky, double-tongued imps that could have walked right off the set of Labyrinth, and unfortunately they are also twice as annoying. What’s worse, they seemed to add very little to the story other than making Neryn’s journey twice as long and tedious. Had their insistence that she was on the path to danger originated in an innate tendency to be contrary, I might have forgiven their presence, yet they seem genuinely invested in helping Neryn, which merely made their interventions all the more frustrating.

Neryn is a lamentably boring heroine with very little backbone and, at times, even less common sense, though Marillier clearly believes her characters has these traits in abundance. In reality, she is but another cardboard cutout in a story full of incompletely developed ideas, as is her love interest Flint. Tali and Garret show some promise for future development, but I doubt I’ll be around to see whether that promise is fulfilled.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Shadowfell is the fact that, despite being over four-hundred pages in length, it is very obviously only the first third of a story. I have little patience for authors who confuse the concept of a trilogy with that of a single book broken into three segments. While there might be an overarching plot that ties together all three books, I should nevertheless turn the last page of each book feeling as if I have accomplished something, yet Shadowfell‘s ending is abrupt and inadequate. Had this been my first experience with Marillier’s writing, it’s doubtful whether I would have picked up another title from her catalogue. Since I do happen to know how skilled she is, I’ll chalk this one up to a bad day and go back to her Sevenwaters series.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme created at Book Journey to catalogue everything read in the past week, what you’re working on now, and what you hope to get to in the coming week.

The Past Week

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

What I Didn’t Say by Keary Taylor

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart

The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Reading Now

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

The Week Ahead

Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Showcase Sunday

Showcase Sunday is a meme created by Vicky at Books, Biscuits, and Tea to share new book acquisitions, whether bought, gifted, received for review, borrowed, or won.

Bought

  • House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
  • Eragon & Eldest by Christopher Paolini
  • Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier
  • Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier
  • Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart
  • Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart
  • The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart
  • This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
 
  • Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
  • The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

Gifted

  • Bitten by Kelley Armstrong First Edition Hardcover

For Review

 

  • The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa (from NetGalley)
  • What I Didn’t Say by Keary Taylor (from NetGalley)

Won

  • Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral plus $25 iTunes giftcard (Thanks to Liz at Being Geek Chic and Razorbill Publishers)

Review: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

I adore fairy tale retellings. While some scoff at the simplistic lessons and unrealistic conclusions to these stories that held us all enthralled as children, I’ve yet to allow the cynical hand of adulthood leach the wonder out of these classic tales. There is a reason why we cling so eagerly to them in our youth, and why they have endured in countless iterations throughout generations and across cultural ties. They speak to a part of us that never tires of contemplating the potential for hope and happiness, no matter how improbable the odds or circumstances.

While I’ve long heard Juliet Marillier’s praises sung, for some reason, I’ve never before picked up one of her novels. Yet today I found I could no longer ignore the reviews that hailed Daughter of the Forest as one of the best fairy tale adaptations to date, and I’m glad I finally gave Marillier a chance, because her tale did not disappoint. Her take on

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

the Celtic tale of Wild Swans is epic in emotional impact if not in action. This is a tale in which a woman must strive to become her own savior and that of her family; her strength is not questioned and discounted by those around her, and she delivers on her promise, quietly suffering to fulfill the salvation that only she can bring about.

I often find fault in heroines whose innate goodness seems unmarred. Though unfortunate circumstances are heaped upon their shoulders, they bear it stoically and kindly, and we the readers know the vast injustice that they face to bravely. Sorcha could easily have come across as this type of heroine, and in truth, Marillier does little to create the faults that might otherwise be necessary to flesh her out into a believable character. As it is, Sorcha’s unwavering resolution in carrying out her mission seems more than any one person could hope to undertake. Yet I never felt resentful toward Sorcha as I so often do toward heroines whose qualities are irreproachable. Perhaps it owes to the weight of the tasks she is forced to perform and the isolation in which she exists for three years, but each time some new adversity was forced upon her, I could not help but long for the day when Sorcha’s accomplishments would be acknowledged, no matter how unlikely their achievement might seem in real life. For what else is the purpose of fairy tales but to make the improbable seem possible?

For most of the book, I adored Sorcha’s relationship with her brothers. Often, when so many characters are introduced, particularly in a familial setting, it becomes inevitable that some of their personalities fail to distinguish themselves. Yet Marillier succeeds brilliantly in creating each of Sorcha’s brothers as distinct characters, ones whose love for their sister and heartbreak over their fortune makes the reader all the more sympathetic to the necessity of Sorcha’s success in her endeavors. It was due to Marillier’s success in evoking my emotional investment in Sorcha’s brothers that I was so upset by their attitude towards her after their curse is finally lifted. Maybe Marillier wished to contrast the effects of the curse on the male and female figures involved, showing a stunt in growth on the brothers’ part that stood out against Sorcha’s emotional development. Yet whatever the case, her brothers’ failure or disinclination to take Sorcha’s own desires and happiness into account after all she had sacrificed for them was disheartening. It undermined the very strength of sibling bond that justified and necessitated the heartbreak that has sustained the story thus far.

I’ve read many reviews that debate Sorcha’s decision to stay with Red rather than Simon. Suffice it to say, after finishing the story, I’m not sure how this can even be a topic of discussion. Sorcha’s connection to Simon was fleeting at best, and founded on the same superficial hopes that the tales she recounted to him warned against. While many lament the fact that, in contrast to Simon’s colorful energy, Red is too boring and unemotional to warrant Sorcha’s love, I found Marillier’s slow and subtle evolution of Sorcha and Red’s romance utterly charming. Red is exactly the type of hero I prefer in my stories, fairy tale or otherwise. His emotions simmer below the surface, yet they are fiercely present to those who know to search for it. His ambitions and desires reflect the mature mind that Sorcha needs upon emergence from the traumas of her childhood. Even had she been given the chance to get to know Simon better, he could offer her little more than the idealistic dreams sprung from youthful fantasy.

I’m glad I’ve finally given Marillier the attention she deserves as a masterful teller of tales told many times before. The ability to make such a story seem at once fresh and enchanting is a rare talent, and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a meme created by Kristi over at The Story Siren to share new book acquisitions, whether bought, gifted, received for review, borrowed, or won.

Bought

  • Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier
  • Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Breakfast on Pluto by Patrick McCabe

For Review

  • Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig (from NetGalley)

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme created at Book Journey to catalogue everything read in the past week, what you’re working on now, and what you hope to get to in the coming week.

The Past Week

Jane by April Lindner

The Bone Doll's Twin by Lynn Flewelling

Hidden Warrior by Lynn Flewelling

The Oracle's Queen by Lynn Flewelling

Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner

Reading Now

Ember by Kristen Callihan

The Week Ahead

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier