Tag Archives: Juliet Marillier

Wednesday Reviews: FLAME OF SEVENWATERS by Juliet Marillier

FlameOfSevenwatersI loved FLAME OF SEVENWATERS. I thought author Juliet Marillier did a wonderfully sensitive job in talking about disability, and how hard it is for a differently-abled person to find the things in life that matter most, such as a partner who loves us for ourselves despite our flaws.

I won’t talk about the plot here so as not to spoil the story, but the stakes are very high and it has wonderful plot twists and a satisfyingly resonant ending. Five stars. 

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Wednesday Reviews: THE WELL OF SHADES by Juliet Marillier

TheWellOfShadesTHE WELL OF SHADES, the last and third volume of THE BRIDEI CHRONICLES by author Juliet Marillier again makes Faolan a chief player. This time his love interest is the fierce and fragile Elie, daughter of an Irish warrior who helped save Faolan’s life in Volume 2. As usual, Marillier takes the reader on quite an adventure, but this time it was more successful as both of her characters were flawed human beings who grow and change.

Of all the volumes in this series, I enjoyed this one the best. Five stars. 

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Wednesday Reviews: THE BLADE OF FORTRIU by Juliet Marillier

BladeOfFortriuTHE BLADE OF FORTRIU, the second volume of THE BRIDEI CHRONICLES (THE DARK MIRROR is the first volume) pairs the intriguing spy and assassin Faolan, with a minor character from King Bridei’s court. Ana is a royal hostage kept there to ensure that the King of the Light Isles, her father, will not betray Bridei.

Like Bridei in THE DARK MIRROR, Ana is also a too-perfect character who can be annoying for exactly that reason. So it’s great that Faolan finds her so annoying and a bit of a pain in the neck. Just as I was enjoying how their relationships was unfolding, Marillier threw a spanner in the works by making Ana fall in love with someone that she basically can’t see. Marillier would have lost me at that point, except for her truly lovely descriptions which made the story come alive for me. Four stars. 

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Wednesday Reviews: HEART’S BLOOD by Juliet Marillier

HeartsBloodHEARTS BLOOD by Juliet Marillier is her retelling of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, but she makes this story so much her own, I actually didn’t recognize the original tale, only learning that it was based on the well-known fairy story after I’d finished reading it and was perusing the Amazon reviews.

Deftly downplaying Beauty’s beauty and the Beast’s ugliness, Marillier turns this tale into one about the power of hope to overcome sorrow. Although there are some fantasy elements, this story is firmly grounded in history, in the Norman conquest of Ireland either under Henry I (1100-1135) or his grandson Henry II (1154-1189).

IMHO HEARTS BLOOD is a wonderfully told tale, on a par with the SEVENWATERS sagas. Five stars. 

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Monday Craft Tips #13: An example of how NOT to write prose

Recently, I talked about two very talented writers, Janet Fitch and Juliet Marillier who both write engaging prose that reflect the content of their novels. Ms. Fitch’s prose in WHITE OLEANDER, set in contemporary LA, was suitably hard and edgy. Ms. Marillier’s prose in SON OF SHADOWS, set in 9th-century Ireland, was gorgeous and poetic.

But I’ve also recently read prose that just doesn’t work. And I wanted to show you an example of what I mean. This excerpt comes from Suzanne Weyn’s THE NIGHT DANCE, a re-telling of THE TWELVE DANCING PRINCESSES to which she has added elements of the Arthurian legend of The Lady of the Lake. I thought her retelling of this Grimm’s fairy tale was one of the most interesting versions (and I’ve read several of them recently.) But she really disappointed me with the ending, which seemed rushed, mainly because the quality of the writing was far below that of the rest of the novel. Read the passage below, which comes from the end of the novel, and bear in mind that it is supposed to be set in 5th-century England. I quote:

 

At the end of the wedding party, Sir Ethan announced that he would be leaving with Vivienne, though they most certainly would be in touch. Any of the girls who wanted to come with them and study mystical ways were welcome…Gwendolyn, Helewise, Chloe, Isolde and Mathilde thought life on Avalon sounded exciting, though.

“Could Ione, Brianna, Bronwyn, Cecily and I stay here at the manor?” asked Ashlynn…we’d like to turn the place into an inn.”

There was a murmur of approval as this seemed like it would be a fun enterprise.

 

I cringe at expressions such as “would be in touch” “were welcome” “sounded exciting” and “seemed like it would be a fun enterprise.” It seems so insensitive to write Valley Girl or even modern British slang when you’re supposed to be conveying what 5th-century England would feel like.

A lesson in how NOT to write, when you do an historical novel!

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Monday Craft Tips #12: Two examples of great prose style to inspire you!

I’ve just finished reading Janet Fitch’s WHITE OLEANDER and have just embarked on Juliet Marillier’s SON OF SHADOWS. Both books are great reads, even though they are very different in tone. But what makes them both so enjoyable is that the prose style is so great.
For example, Janet Fitch uses metaphors and similes to great effect.

“What was the best day of your life?” she asked me one afternoon as we lay on the free-form couch, her head on one armrest, mine on the other. Judy Garland sang on the stereo, “My Funny Valentine.”
“Today,” I said.
“No.” She laughed, throwing her napkin at me. “From before.”
I tried to remember, but it was like looking for buried coins in the sand. I kept turning things over, cutting myself on rusty cans, broken beer bottles hidden there, but eventually I found an old coin, brushed it off. I could read the date, the country of origin.
It was when we were living in Amsterdam.”

And Juliet Marillier uses words to evoke a long-ago past where people lived closer to the ghosts of their ancestors.

“That spring we had visitors. Here in the heart of the great forest, the old ways were strong despite the communities of men and women that now spread over our land, their Christian crosses stark symbols of a new faith. From time to time, travelers would bring across the sea tales of great ills done to folk who dared keep the old traditions. There were cruel penalties, even death, for those who left an offering maybe, for the harvest gods or thought to weave a simple spell for good fortune or use a potion to bring back a faithless sweetheart. The druids were all slain or banished over there.”

I hope that reading these authors will inspire all of us to write more poetically!

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THE DARK MIRROR by Juliet Marrillier

It is always so hard to write about Juliet Marillier, because her talent places her in a class by herself. This book has the mystery, the magic and the engrossing worldview of a pagan Europe before Christianity took hold. In her SEVENWATERS chronicles, we explored ninth-century Ireland. In this series, we explore sixth-century Scotland. In both cases, we are witnessing the slow death of an ancient way of being before the Christian onslaught of these windswept lands.

 

So the story was wonderful, but compared with Ms. Marillier’s SEVENWATERS trilogy, this was weak. The protagonist, Bridei was perfect in every respect that you could possibly think of. His fey companion Tuala was more interesting, in that she was more rebellious. But for a fourteen-year-old girl she was remarkably poised and serene about the various misfortunes that assailed her.

This story had little of the realistic grit about it that made the SEVENWATERS books truly great. By the standards of most of the books out there, this was superlative. By her own standards, this book was not as strong as it could have been. Which was a pity. Three and a half stars.

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How to write glorious prose. NOT

Recently, I talked about two very talented writers, Janet Fitch and Juliet Marillier who both write engaging prose that reflect the content of their novels. Ms. Fitch’s prose in WHITE OLEANDER, set in contemporary LA, was suitably hard and edgy. Ms. Marillier’s prose in SON OF SHADOWS, set in 9th-century Ireland, was gorgeous and poetic.

But I’ve also recently read prose that just doesn’t work. And I wanted to show you an example of what I mean. This excerpt comes from Suzanne Weyn’s THE NIGHT DANCE, a re-telling of THE TWELVE DANCING PRINCESSES to which she has added elements of the Arthurian legend of The Lady of the Lake. I thought her retelling of this Grimm’s fairy tale was one of the most interesting versions (and I’ve read several of them recently.) But she really disappointed me with the ending, which seemed rushed, mainly because the quality of the writing was far below that of the rest of the novel. Read the passage below, which comes from the end of the novel, and bear in mind that it is supposed to be set in 5th-century England. I quote:

 

At the end of the wedding party, Sir Ethan announced that he would be leaving with Vivienne, though they most certainly would be in touch. Any of the girls who wanted to come with them and study mystical ways were welcome…Gwendolyn, Helewise, Chloe, Isolde and Mathilde thought life on Avalon sounded exciting, though.

“Could Ione, Brianna, Bronwyn, Cecily and I stay here at the manor?” asked Ashlynn…we’d like to turn the place into an inn.”

There was a murmur of approval as this seemed like it would be a fun enterprise.

 

I cringe at expressions such as “would be in touch” “were welcome” “sounded exciting” and “seemed like it would be a fun enterprise.” It seems so insensitive to write Valley Girl or even modern British slang when you’re supposed to be conveying what 5th-century England would feel like.

A lesson in how NOT to write, when you do an historical novel!

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CYBELE’S SECRET by Juliet Marillier

The sequel to WILDWOOD DANCING, this novel is in a very different key. While WILDWOOD concerned the retelling of a couple of fairy tales, CYBELE’S SECRET was more like a complex puzzle that the protagonist, Paula had to solve. Although there were supernatural elements present in both novels, in CYBELE’S SECRET, that aspect seemed to be much more contained, while the focus was on a murder mystery/detective type of story, this time set in Turkey. (One great thing about being a novelist is the excuse to visit many exotic and lovely places).

I enjoyed getting to know Paula, one of the younger sisters in WILDWOOD DANCING, and I enjoyed her adventures in Istanboul. I did think that the end was not as well resolved as it could have been. The shocking discovery concerning the scholarly Irene was not set up well, and hit the reader like a two by four out of the blue. And I wasn’t convinced that Paula’s choice of life partner was going to bring her much satisfaction. But aside from these qualms, this novel is a charming and engrossing read for both adolescents and adults alike. Four stars.

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WILDWOOD DANCING by Juliet Marillier

This is such a charming story, for both young folk and adult alike. Taking the well-known fairy tales of THE FROG PRINCE and THE TWELVE DANCING PRINCESSES, author Juliet Marilier puts her own spin on them by setting this novel in the Roumanian forest. A lighter tale than her Sevenwaters Trilogy, nevertheless her characters do not have an easy time. This coming-of-age tale reflects the heartbreak and excitement as the five sisters begin to go their separate ways as they find their life partners. Both Tatiana and Jenica (the two eldest) find theirs in unlikely places.

 

The only complaint I had about this novel was that some of the dialogue seemed too modern. This was especially so when Jenica was standing up for her family. For some reason the phrase “I’m not prepared to…” really jarred. I just wish that the language could have sounded older and less cliched. Four stars.

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