Sunday, April 8, 2012

Book Review: Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

Wildwood Dancing

Juliet Marillier

Publication Date: January 23rd 2007

Publisher: Knopf

Pages: 407

Genre: Fairytale, Fantasy

High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It's an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle's hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.
But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he's there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena's sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom--an impossible union it's up to Jena to stop.
When Cezar's grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can't imagine--tests of trust, strength, and true love.

There is only one word to describe this fairytale inspired tale: Masterpiece. I swear this is no exaggeration. Categorized as Young Adult, Wildwood Dancing is as complicated and intricate as any fantasy novel could boast to be. The cover of the book is a wonderful representation of its intricities. Juliet Marillier is no stranger to fairytale adaptations as she wrote Daughter of the Forest long before this book and that one is based upon the Six Swan fairytale. Wildwood borrows from at least two fairytales, including that of a presently very popular fairytale to adapt (The Twelve Dancing Princesses) and Transylvanian mythology. The combination is woven together beautifully.

I happened to experience this book by audiobook, which proved to be both amazing and frustrating. It is one-hundred percent one of the better audiobooks I've listened to, the voices and narration done perfectly to match the story. The frustration came from the fact that I read much faster than any audiobook reader reads. There is no doubt in my mind that if I had been reading, rather than listening, to this book I would have gotten through it within the day, and in fact the need to listen to just one more part of the audio kept me up much longer than it should have many a nights.

The story is incredibly enchanting and covered in themes. There are two main romances: that of Jena and that of Tati. There is then a theme of control, of things coming at a price, of learning lessons. There is no doubt that during the winter in which this story takes place Jena grew up so much.

Another unexpected theme is that of sexism. The character Cezar is so completely and utterly sexist that he serves (whether or not this is meant to be) as a beautiful satire for the sexism still existing in society. I have lost count of the many times I threw pillows across my bedroom in rage at the things he did and said, the way he treated Jena and how no one did anything about it. And the sad fact that Jena can't do anything against Cezar, the society she lives in prevents her from doing anything and it's so frustrating and reminds me of situations that I've seen happening in present day society.

So rarely nowadays am I just struck by how good a book is, so much that I knew about halfway through that this was going to be a 5 star book, so much that as soon as the credits started going on the audiobook I open up a document to write this review. It has shot up to one of my all time favourite books, and while trying to think of a reason that this book isn't perfect I'm having trouble.

Well developed characters, true love, very well explored sisterly relationships, learning you can't control everything, a story as intricate as any fancy embroidery, a world you just want to become immersed in and magical prose. What more can you ask for?

I recommend this book to lovers of fantasy and fairytales, of true love and of the good guys winning against all odds. This possibly my favourite rendition of the Twelve Dancing Princesses tale I have read so far, so if you happen to be a fan of that fairytale I also recommend this. I've already got its sequel Cybele's Secret on hold at the library (this time as an actual book so that I don't encounter the frustration of waiting to learn more faster) and will hopefully enjoy it as much as I enjoyed this tale.



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