It may be too soon to say this, but I think I may have found a new favorite author. I'd seen several people on other blogs mention Juliet Marillier as one of their favorite fantasy authors (most recently at The Book Smugglers) and I picked up Daughter of the Forest, first in the Sevenwaters series. And it was so, so good. It's historical fantasy, loosely based on an old fairy tale (The Six Swans) and set (very loosely) in ninth century Ireland and England. It's the story of a family torn apart by dark magic, about a cultural feud, about the whiles and whims of the fey, about brothers and sisters who will do anything for each other, and about a strong girl who sacrifices herslef in seemingly impossible ways.
So here's where I gush: the beautiful and lyrical writing was the perfect vehicle for this story and setting. It pulled me gently into the mystical forests of Ireland, and into a world that values storytelling and legends. The setting and story were magical and fairy tale-esque, but the rich characters kept the story grounded. Marillier also has a gift for writing relationships of all kinds -- friends, lovers, siblings, father-child, mentor-mentee, lord and cottager, human and nature, adversaries, and even the relationship between the earthly world and the fey. There's an interesting contrast in the book between the relationship of Sorcha and her brothers and the relationship between blood brothers Simon and Red (and, now that I think about it, the brotherly relationship between Red, Ben and John). I could picture the deep forests and lake surrounding Sevenwaters, and the gentle rolling hills and pastoral beauty of the Northern England estate. I was also impressed with the authentic conflict and tension in this book -- Marillier did not shy away from letting bad things happen on our characters' journey. There is genuine danger and grief in this story, as well as happiness and joy.
And last but not least -- the love story. Beautiful and quiet and epic and true. Here's a taste:
"...it matters not if you are here, or there, for I see you before me every moment. I see you in the light on the water, in the swaying of the young trees in thh spring wind. I see you in the shadows of the great oaks, I hear your voice in the cry of the owl at night. You are the blood in my veins, and the beating of my heart. You are my first waking thought, and my last sigh before sleeping. You are -- you are bone of my bone, and breath of my breath."
I mean. Come on. Are you swooning yet?
Bottom line: a beatiful, fairy tale fantasy.