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.
Title : Wildwood Dancing
Author : Juliet Marillier
Series : Wildwood (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 407
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Alfred A. Knopf
Release Date : January 23, 2007
Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★.5 / ★ ★ ★ ★
Hollis’ 3.5 star review
Even though this couldn’t be more different from the Sevenwaters Saga, there is something intrinsically Marillier about this story. A group of siblings. A mystery to be solved. Transformation. Magic. The Other folk. But this is still very unique, for all that it’s also based on, or paying homage to/a retelling of, folklore stories like The Twelve Dancing Princesses and, well, another one I won’t mention so it doesn’t ruin the surprise. Additionally, we have a story set not just in Britain, or Ireland, as most folklore and fairytales are, but in Transylvania, making the story further unique; because how often do we get that for a setting? And, complementing that setting, some of her creatures may feel a little.. familiar, too.
Joining me on this adventure was Micky but unlike previous Marillier buddy reads, I’m not sure I ever read this one. GR says no and having now read it I don’t think that was a data entry oversight on my part. While this won’t be one I revisit the way I reread her other works, there’s a lot of good here. But also, unfortunately fitting with the times perhaps, in addition to just being the conflict and antagonist of the plot, it’s also a struggle. Now, of course, often times I can enjoy the conflict for what it is without feeling like the book itself was less fun as a result but in this case.. what at first became a game to theorize and assign blame on a character, who was shit from the start, over time because wearisome. Marillier is always great at creating fantastic villains who truly believe they are on the right side, doing the right things, but this time.. it wore on me. Maybe because instead of machinations sprinkled over the course of a trilogy, everything was crammed into one instalment. Or maybe it was the kind conflicts (misogyny, patriarchal behaviour, all flavours of that kind) just rubbed me in places that were too raw. What also frustrated me was the fact that our lead was rarely, if ever, supported by those around her to fight these conflicts. Sure, again, maybe it’s a sign of the times. The reality was they had little support in the first place which could explain why things happened the way they did. But it was exhausting.
As for the mysteries and magic, well. They were mostly fairly obvious from the get-go. We definitely saw a lot of it coming without much surprise. Which is fine. And I did absolutely love how everything kicked off (the game they played as children and the ripples it would have throughout their lives) because it felt true to the mischief and mayhem that comes with involving yourself with the Others. So, too, was all of Jena, our lead’s, assumptions and judgments. She did become rather difficult near the end after having spent so much time judging her sister and what she was going through, only to be found guilty of her own follies and not truly realize the parallels (I’m thinking of her preoccupation in her moment of loss which she saw Tati going through the whole time). Having said that, though, said sister was a little.. dramatic I think. To go from distracted and heartsick to what she did.. I don’t know. A little much.
I definitely wanted to love this more than I did. But I did enjoy the world, even if the characters sometimes frustrated me, and as usual Marillier does fae like few authors can. And, of course, it was a joy to read this with my buddy and theorize and rant about what was going on at any given time.
I do want to read on and I’m looking forward to seeing what new experiences await in book two.
Micky’s 4 star review
A flavour of retellings
Other folk of many types
Marillier knows how to craft an interesting world to invest the reader from the start. In this duology starter, I found myself in the Transylvanian mountains of Romania, somewhere I’ve never been in fiction before; so fresh. This story had the flavour of some fairytales but set in it’s own unique way, one of the influences was the twelve dancing princesses (but there weren’t twelve).
In no surprise to any Marillier fan, the other folk and their world collided with those of the protagonist Jena and antagonist Cezar. Cezar, (deep sigh) was vile in an exponential way as the story developed. Expect to feel shades of patriarchy, misogyny and control. There were many parts of this story with Cezar that enraged me. That said, many of the men in this story were empowering towards women.
Jena and her sisters were a colourful bunch. By the end, I really wanted a Tati story, more of what happened to her in this story and the afterwards. Gogu was a great character and although Hollis and I guessed much about this character, the reading of it was still entertaining.
In the other world we met a lot of different folk, dissimilar to her sevenwaters fair folk. The night people were illusively intriguing, I loved the brief pictures and connections between the sisters and Anatoli, Sten and othe dancing partners.
The romp to the end was predictable in some ways and less so in others but it didn’t hamper my enjoyment. I’m looking forward to the next book (and hoping my buddy is on board for this soon) and wishing already that there were more than two books in this series.