Tags: fantasy, Ireland, romance, pregnancy
Liadan of Sevenwaters, youngest daughter of Sorcha and Hugh (formerly of Harrowfield), twin to Sean, and little sister to Niamh, would be happy to spend her whole life in the lovely lands of Sevenwaters, helping out with the household. However, when a series of increasingly confounding events occur, and people began whispering furtively about the reawakening of a curse, or the fulfillment of an old prophecy, and Liadan is kidnapped by a band of skilled but not-quite-merciless mercenaries, she begins to realize that her destiny may lie beyond the simple household workings of Sevenwaters after all.
I had heard that, while the first book in the Sevenwaters series, Daughter of the Forest, was pretty good, the second book, SON OF THE SHADOWS, would blow me away. I admit to a bit of good-natured skepticism when I was told this. Okay, yes, Daughter of the Forest was good, but it’s still the same author writing the second book, which is set in the same world, and has similar characters with similar problems, right? But no, somehow, miraculously, in an act that seems to defy the unstated law of sequels (“Thou shalt never be good as the first book”), SON OF THE SHADOWS is an astounding original work of fantasy that sweeps the literary awards in the categories of characters, plot, pacing, and readers’ emotional investment.
Daughter of the Forest was constrained by it being a retelling, albeit a lush and engaging retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales, melancholy and terrifying and inspiring and heartbreaking all at the same time. However, Marillier hits her writing prowess out of the ballpark when she strays away from the retelling and makes the world she created fully her own. SON OF THE SHADOWS has everything a die-hard fantasy fan will want from a fantasy: a strong protagonist, an epic romance, complex political dynamics, nasty villains. Daughter of the Forest focuses more on Sorcha and her difficult journey to break the curse set on her brothers, whereas in SON OF THE SHADOWS, Marillier takes her time in exploring and expanding the world in and around Sevenwaters. In this book, we can feel the motions of the operations of an estate: its fluid routine under strong leadership, and its heart-wrenching struggles when the leadership is being bombarded by political manipulations and betrayals.
I love that the delicate nature of political relationships is explored so thoroughly in this book. Liadan, Sean, and Niamh being children related to the “lord of the manor,” it is inevitable that their destinies would involve how Sevenwaters’ relations with its neighbors and strategic allies must evolve. The lovely thing about this being the second book in the series is that we can already sympathize with Liadan’s parents, Sorcha and “Red,” from reading about them in the first book; thus, they never end up assuming the “antagonist parent” role. So much of this book revolves around the Sevenwaters’ inhabitants’ political relationships with others: Liadan and neighboring lord Eamonn, Niamh and her unhappy strategic marriage to an ally, and so on. I found it utterly engrossing how Marillier deftly weaves these complex strings of human desires and ambitions so that no one is entirely good, no one entirely bad.
But I haven’t even gotten to what may arguably be the best part of the book yet! Liadan’s and Bran’s romance is…epic. There is no other word for it. It sweeps you off your feet in a violent whoosh and keeps you dizzily, giddily swinging through the air, all the while knowing that you are safe, because the person holding onto you is one whom you can trust with your life. That was what it felt like for me when I was reading about their romance. Liadan and Bran: such seemingly incompatible people at first, and yet they share the same values, both have the same good intentions and dreams that they must fight and fight and fight in order to achieve. So they—and I, as the reader—are swept away with the unexpectedness of their connection to one another; and then the incredible trials they must go through in order to have even the barest hope of being happy together is the dizzy, giddy part, pulling the reader along in great breathless gasps, desperate that things might work out for the characters. Finally, no matter how dizzy and breathless and gut-wrenched you may feel along the way, you know that you are safe, because Liadan and Bran are both such fundamentally good, strong, and loving people—even if their life situations do not allow for them to show it—that you can believe that they are, without a doubt, absolutely right for one another, against all the odds.
Whew! I think I’m gonna stop there with the review. The more I write, the more I realize I don’t think I have the words to express how phenomenal my reading experience of SON OF THE SHADOWS was. Just…just read the series. Read this book.
Tor Fantasy / June 17, 2002 / Mass Market Paperback (reprint) / 608pp. / $7.99
Personal copy OH MY WORD.