Thursday, June 22, 2006

Sevenwaters Trilogy

By Juliet Marillier. Consisting of Daughter of the Forest, Son of the Shadows and Child of the Prophecy.

These books are heartwrenching but good. (I think.)

Each one is narrated by a different woman, and the author does a good job in making them each a distinct person with a distinct story. The problem is, they're all so sad (especially Daughter of the Forest and Child of the Prophecy) even if they each have a so-called "happy ending." Sorcha's task in Daughter of the Forest is almost unbearably difficult, especially when you start thinking that it may have been a bit of a farce done to manipulate her in other ways, a theory that's backed up when you get to Child of the Prophecy and realize Fainne can perform transformations almost effortlessly. The ending of the third one also bothers me.

These books are steeped in (what I assume is authentic) Irish mythology. There is a Christian presence in the Ireland depicted but most of the characters follow the so-called "old faith", worshipping the gods of the Fair Folk, and the Christians here seem to be either benign to that faith or rather evil in both matters of faith (think the Spanish Inquisition) and other ways, which may be true as far as history goes but is still sad.

I found these books rather painful to read through because of the amount of torment the characters are put through. Sorcha is not allowed to speak or make a sound at all for three years, lest she lose her brothers forever. Liadan isn't that bad off, but she's bookended by Sorcha and Fainne, whose grandmother threatens harm to everyone she loves if she won't follow her grandmother's will. Sorcha's narrative is painful because of the possbility that she could slip up and say something, but Fainne's is terrible because she ends up killing people when she doesn't intend to hurt anyone. It takes most of Child of the Prophecy for her to make a concrete decision to foil her grandmother and then Finbar shows up with a prophecy to shake that confidence by saying that she won't actually decide until the last moment (which seems in hindsight to be untrue). There is occasional humor tossed in (I think I noticed it most in Fainne's story), but it fails to lighten the dark mood for long.

Interesting in comparison might be Stephen Lawhead's The Black Rood, which tells the story of an Irish monk. The quote that I remember is "All flesh is grass, Brother Aidan..."

So, I'm really bad at coming to a point.

These books are an interesting but heavy read, with rounded characters (Fainne is the one who comes closest to being able to do anything she wants, ability wise, and she is at the same time limited by her fears and her heritage). There is no profanity (that I remember) and no glamorous sex. I have to wonder why I didn't find these before.


Martin LaBar said...

I'm currently reading Son of the Shadows for the second time. You've hit the nail on the head, pretty much.

Joshua said...

I've gotta say, I think I short-changed the first two in favor of the third in my little review, since that's the one that really fascinated me. Sorcha and Liadan are strong characters, I guess, but they didn't seem to be conflicted in the same way Fainne was; they'd always do what's right.

Thanks for the comment! I only knew of one person who reads this before you left it (although maybe you don't read it either but just found it with the 'Pick a random blog' button?)