5 stars rounded up to generous 4 I guess I really do like Juliet Marillier s writing, even though it always takes me a while to get into any of her books I like how descriptive and atmospheric her stories are Wildwood Dancing offers an interesting blend of traditional fairy tales The Twelve Dancing Princesses and The Frog Prince and Transylvanian vampire lore The characters are likable the heroines are strong and resourceful, the heroes valiant and loving, the villains sufficiently despicable And of course, there is always LOVE, a sweet and touching type of love I am starting to see a bit of a pattern in Marillier s books though The story here is basically the same as I ve read in her first 2 Sevenwaters books the same cast of characters a self sufficient heroine, a suddenly weakened father, loving siblings, fairies, a family member villain, etc The main conflict always has something to do with fairy games and the human villain trying to force himself on the heroine This particular story is also a little bit convoluted and muddy I never got the clear picture what happened and why Jena and her sisters, when her father is absent, start experiencing troubles in both fairy realm and real world Then these difficulties are all resolves, but interestingly enough, without any kind of effort on the sisters part Basically, a witch messed with them all and then all her spells are gone All that the sisters need to do is endure and wait for changes to come It s just weird.
And then some actions by the main character Jena are strange too I often didn t understand why exactly she did certain things For example, her sexist pig cousin tries to take away the authority Jena has over her household and her father s business finances, and all she does is argue with him without actually exercising the power she has to stop him And it happens on several occasions So, you see, she is pretty much all talk no game It is frustrating And then the way she reacts to her best friend s transformation doesn t make sense either.
Now, looking over my review, I think I am going to downgrade my rating to 3 stars I am, however, still very much interested in reading the sequel Cybele s Secret.
DNF 80%Unbelievably disappointing Utterly underwhelming Filled with contrivances, plot holes, and rampant stupidity on the part of the MC I spent the entirety of this book PISSED, mostly at the weakness of our supposedly headstrong, intelligent, and capable heroine, because while I was told that she was all of these things, I was never shown that she was any of these things All I saw of her was a weak willed doormat of an MC, so spineless that I m surprised she was able to stand upright An equal measure of my rage was directed at her sullen, selfish ingrate of an older sister Also, one dimensional villain is one dimensional He s a bully, got it Got it the first time, actually Telling me for the 1,546,353 time that he was a bully was just overkill Patronizing, even UGH Entwined is a much better example of this retelling Better paced, filled with compelling female characters and their believable relationships as sisters, entertaining, poetic, and with an ending that didn t make me want to curse the gods of deus ex machina This review can also be found at The Book Eaters.
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 StopWhen 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 Gorgeous cover art, gorgeous story Wildwood Dancing is mostly a loose retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale, but this novel, set in Transylvania in about the 1500 s, pulls in threads from various fairy tales and legends and weaves them together There are five sisters, ages 5 17, living in a castle on a mountain Every full moon, the sisters go through a magical portal to the Other Kingdom, a fairy land in kind of an alternate reality set very close to the real world There they spend the night visiting and dancing with all different types of wondrous magical creatures, some appealing, some scary The scary ones include vampires, and Jena, the second sister who is the narrator of the story, is afraid that her older sister Tatiana has fallen in love with a young vampire.
There are so many layers and elements to this story a jealous cousin who tries to take control of Jena s family A talking frog who is Jena s closest friend Sibling rivalry Powerful and remote faeries Being sent on a quest for love And looking back on it, I m amazed at how wonderfully all of these complex themes and elements are woven together And the underworld society of fairies and other fantastical, magical creatures is so vivid and imaginative My only beef is that the villain in the story is a little over the top.
This one is enjoyable by young readers as well as adults In fact, I think I need to go find it and read it again When I first read this fairy tale novel I rated it four stars, but the I think about this book and compare it to others I ve read in the genre lately, the I m impressed with it So it s belatedly getting all five stars.
This book gives new dimensions to the word UNDERWHELMING There was so much potential and it was soooo obviously wasted It was a contradictory mess with plotholes bigger than Transylvania.
Maybe because I am not so young any I probably would have enjoyed it at 13, but I just cannot buy into this tale 3 decades later.
It probably also did not help that the narrator had such a whiny and saccharine voice that it gave me a permanent toothache.
And what is it with authors trying to sell their heroines as oh so very clever sensible and then making them painfully dumb and ignorant at every turn because they have no other idea how to move the plot forward Seriously There is a deep and wide pool of selfish, helpless, imbecile heroines out there in fiction, but the main character s Jena sister, Tati, takes the serious biscuit She is completely braindead makes me want to slap her all the way to Transylvania and back just to make her see the slightest tickle of sense And yet, she was beyond hope, really And all because of LUV as we are told Tati, you are the eldest, all your sisters, especially your small sis of 5 years, really needs your help support OH NOOOOOOOO, I caaaaaaan t, I am hopelessly in LUV But your father seems to be dying, your mother has already been dead and your younger sisters truly depend on your love care OH NOOOOOOOO, I don t care, I am hopelessly in LUV But all your selfishness and your foolish acts actually endanger yourself, your lover as well as your sisters and your whole family OH NOOOOOOOO, I don t care, I caaaaaaan t, I am hopelessly in LUV You are starving yourself to death, what must your sisters think feel with you perishing wasting in front of their eyes and the youngest one may I remind you of the fact that she is only 5 OH NOOOOOOOO, I don t care, I caaaaaaan t, I am hopelessly in LUV But it would help your lover in his difficult quest to win you if you believed in him and actually stayed alive strong for him so that he can come for you at the end OOOOHHHH, I am soooo much in LUV, but NOT THAT MUCH Ah well, I guess it is all right then Let s move on.
Jena, the MC, has some saving graces even though most of the time she also acts unbelievably dim witted and weak for someone who is supposed to be strong sensible.
But at least when she is told off by her younger sister Paula the only really clever, sensible and interesting character of the whole story that she had selfishly abandoned her younger sisters, she has the grace to be ashamed of herself tries to make amends It also irritated me how she tried to sort out everything on her own, like the increasing bullying of their cousin s, Cesar when it was clear that she is too weak to get anywhere, she just gave up, moping and groaning and waiting for others intervention It never, ever occurred to her to collect all her sisters, tell them about the problems, find solutions together defy Cesar or even slap some sense into their obtuse older sister view spoiler Is it just me or was the frog who is just an enchanted man in disguise spending all the time in the girls bedroom, watching them dress, sleeping on the heroine s bed, really creepy hide spoiler I don t recall the last time I ve read a fiction book based on classic fairy tales that was this excellent, and I ve read many The tone of this book does indeed feel a lot like the recent works of Patricia McKillip, but Marillier manages to make you care about the characters and this is coming from a huge McKillip fan I don t cry easily at books, but I found myself moved to tears at several points.
The book takes the fairy tale of the 12 Dancing Princesses and sets it in Romania, telling of 5 sisters who journey through a secret portal at Full Moon each month to dance in the Realm of Faerie Things start to turn when their father has to go away for the winter because of illness, and the oldest daughter falls in love with one of the Night People vampires, successfully incorporated into Faerie context than anything else I ve read Add a plot with an outstandingly rendered true soulmate friendship between the lead character and her pet frog, who communicates to her in her mind, and this book was the first book in literally YEARS that I truly couldn t put down at night, and stayed up late to finish The villain of the book as well is a brilliantly rendered character, who you both loathe and feel sorry for at the same time.
I d love to see Juliet Marillier do books along the line of classic fairy tale retellings It suits her so very well I ve heard that she is currently working on the sequel to this book, and I m elated to hear this news Even though this book is technically a young adult novel, it is one of the most fascinating and maturely written plots I ve read in years, and can be appreciated by fairy tale lovers of all ages.
5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum finishing Wildwood Dancing, I ve decided to give it a solid 3.
5 stars Considering this is my first Juliet Marillier book that didn t rate at least a 4, I probably should be feeling disappointed, especially since, out of all her older titles, this was one I d been looking forward to reading the most But honestly, I am not The reality is, while I m pretty convinced that Marillier is incapable of writing a bad novel, I also wouldn t expect to fall in love with every single one of them, and even though I didn t think this was one of her best, I still thought it was a very good book and I enjoyed it a lot.
Naturally, Wildwood Dancing is a reimagining of several fairy tales and other stories inspired by folklore It s a Marillier novel, after all In the tradition of The Twelve Dancing Princesses , the story follows a family of five sisters who put on their fine dancing gowns every full moon in order to travel to another realm, where they would dance all night with the magical creatures who live there Only the five girls know how to get to this enchanted kingdom through the mysterious portal hidden deep in their home of Piscul Draculi, their castle nestled in the woods of the Transylvanian highlands.
The story is told through the eyes of Jena, the second eldest, who assumes the responsibility of looking after her sisters and running the family business after their father is taken to the southlands to recover from a grave illness But everything changes with the arrival of their cousin Cezar, a power hungry man determined to take over the castle and see Jena and her sisters grow up to be proper young ladies His presence has made the girls full moon visits through the portal difficult, and it doesn t help either that Tatiana, Jena s older sister, has apparently fallen in love with one of the dangerous dark creatures from the Other Kingdom As trouble descends on all sides, Jena struggles to keep her family together and maintain her control over Piscul Draculi, even while Cezar tightens his grip around them all and Tatiana continues to slip away.
I should also probably note that Wildwood Dancing is categorized as a YA novel, and it s possible that some of my issues with the book had to do with the fact it s aimed at a younger audience In spite of the story s charming premise, it s admittedly predictable at times and hampered by some annoying tropes Not to mention, they aren t very subtle The moment Cezar sweeps in, you could tell he was the evil, evil bad guy, pumped up on his own self importance and never misses a moment to tell Jena what a silly and improper girl she is for daring to think for herself There is really nothing to his character than being teeth grindingly obnoxious and soul crushing Tatiana also frustrated me, because while it s all fine and good to fall in love, it s not so cool when that love completely consumes you to the point you throw aside the concerns of those who care about you, or that you abandon all your responsibilities including the need to take care of yourself Tatiana gradually becomes this empty shell because we re to believe she s so lovesick after a boy that she loses the will to eat As the main character, Jena is not immune from criticism either where her emotions are concerned, she has blind spots than a drunk bat and I frequently found her stubbornness maddening For a female protag who is supposed to be strong and independent, she can be stunningly ineffectual.
The characters were probably the novel s weakest aspect Happily, predictable or not, I was really interested in the story, and that kept me turning the pages The Transylvanian setting was intriguing, along with all that it implies I also liked how snippets of multiple fairy tales were woven into the plot, and the way Marillier somehow made it all work Like most of her novels, Wildwood Dancing is infused with a whimsical but dark tone, enchanting but also potentially dangerous, and to be sure if you enjoy fairy tale retellings or stories with that kind of vibe, you really can t go wrong with anything she writes.
Ever since I read my first Juliet Marillier novel and she became one of my favorite authors, I have been meaning to go back to read of her work I m glad I read Wildwood Dancing, but given how I felt about it, I ll probably set the sequel, Cybele s Secret, as lower priority while I tackle some of her other adult novels since I find them to be complex and feature developed and convincing characters Still, Wildwood Dancing was a delightful read and it is impressive for YA Fans of Marillier owe it to themselves to check this one out.
In Wildwood Dancing, Juliet Marillier introduces us to five sisters sixteen year old Tatiana, the team mom fifteen year old Jenica, the practical one thirteen year old Iulia, the budding socialite twelve year old Paula, the intellectual and five year old Stela, who s cute They live in a castle, deep in the forests of Transylvania, sometime during the Renaissance They have little company except their father, two loyal servants, and occasional visits from their relatives But every full moon, they follow a secret passage from their bedroom to a magical forest, to join the faeries dance The fae are ruled by a mostly gracious but hot tempered queen but even Queen Ileana must answer to the mysterious witch Draguta, whom our five heroines have never seen.
This routine has been going on for years, resulting in many wonderful friendships between the girls and the benevolent wood people especially between Jena and her constant companion, the frog Gogu, with whom she has established a telepathic bond But this year, change is on the wind and Jena, our narrator, does not like it.
Fasten your seatbelts for what can only be described as Little Women meets A Midsummer Night s Dream in Transylvania SettingMarillier s lush descriptive prose draws you so deep into this beautiful, spooky world that you can smell the mustiness of the secret passage, hear the ferrymen s oars as they cross the enchanted lake, and see the merry torchlight of the dancing lawn and the clear stars above You can tell from the concreteness of her descriptions that she has walked in these places, or at least places very much like them This solidness makes the story which is, like any good fairytale, full of metamorphoses and plot twists seemed grounded, when it could easily become far flung and flimsy in the hands of a less skilled writer.
The Wildwood has many personalities Ileana s queendom is, like her, generous but mercurial The sad, dead patch of forest ruled by the Night People tells you almost everything you need to know about them Then there s the sisters castle, Piscul Draculi, which, like Professor Kirke s house in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, walks the fine line between cozy and creepy PlotThe sisters routine is disturbed first by the intrusion of the Night People on the Full Moon festivities Their leader, the charismatic and sardonic Tadeusz, has an uneasy peace with Ileana, but she and her creatures are repulsed by the rumors of bloodshed hovering over him and his, which they do nothing to dispel.
One in Tadeusz group is a handsome, melancholy young man who goes by the apt name of Sorrow, who has never so much as opened his mouth during a Full Moon gathering Sorrow instantly becomes enad of the kind and beautiful Tatiana, who, much to the alarm of sensible Jena, soon returns his affections Tati insists that Sorrow is not one of the Night People, despite all appearances Jena is not convinced.
Back in the mortal world, the girls father is far away in the last hope that warmer air will save him They are looked after by their kindly Uncle Nicholae, fussy Aunt Bogdana, and cousin Cezar, who is becoming increasingly difficult Everyone knows Cezar has had an unpleasant youth when he was eight, he witnessed his older brother drown, and even now it seems his parents value dead Costi than him Now a young man, he is prone to outbursts of rage and fears of the forest, and is especially unkind to Jena.
They are quickly running out of money with no way to replenish it, and winter is coming.
This brings us back to the Wildwood Jena is sure the Night People will eventually start taking victims among the villagers She fears not only for the villagers, but that hot tempered Cezar and his accomplices might retaliate, catching her innocent faerie friends in the crossfire and probably doing little damage to the perpetrators It doesn t help that dark, powerful Tadeusz himself is attracted to Jena and offers to help out While she refuses his offer, he senses that she is both frightened of and fascinated by him, and decides to help anyway But he tells her upfront that he will demand compensation for his kindness, and she knows the price will be terrible In addition to all these problems, which will affect many lives, Jena grapples with one that at the moment seems very small though it turns out to be as big as any of the others her dear little frog, her best friend since she was little, Gogu, has suddenly become moody and secretive Occasionally he says strange things, about emotions that frogs usually don t have or facts that he particularly could not have known.
Suffice that poor Jena has responsibilities riding on her than a fifteen year old should Who will help her Ileana and her husband, Marin Draguta, who has never shown herself at a Full Moon dance and may have no sympathy for a human Or Tadeusz, who clearly acts upon his own ulterior motives As deaths, including her uncle s, begin piling up among both the villagers and the forest dwellers, Jena s choice becomes very important indeed.
Characters There s quite a bit of Lizzy Bennet and Jo March in Jena, our protagonist Lively and a bit sarcastic, she thinks she knows than her gentle, romantic older sister, and is the boss in the absence of parents She s smart enough to know that her frog, Gogu, must really be a man in an enchanted form, but too oblivious to notice that he s in love with her I appreciated that she starts the book with frizzy hair and a flat chest, and she ends the book with frizzy hair and a flat chest, and plenty of men are still attracted to her.
Of the other four sisters, Tati is the most developed Like Jane Bennet or Meg March, she s the prettiest sister, and the kindest She thinks the best of others even when she has every reason to be suspicious of them Her soft heart immediately gives itself to Sorrow, a captive of the Night People When Sorrow is in danger, Tati s empathetic bond with him begins to drain her, to the point where people in the village think she s either starving herself or turning into a Night Person She has a close, tight relationship with Jena and is a good influence on her.
The younger girls are not as fleshed out, but their personalities are still distinct and bounce off each other nicely Iulia is a Kitty Bennet or a less obnoxious Amy March she just wants a social life, some pretty dresses, and in time a handful of suitors Paula is an uptight little scholar who spends dance nights wrangling magical lore from wizards and mages, but she s also the most level headed girl in the group, who can take care of little Stela when the others are too busy being confused by boys Think Mary Bennet, only useful and without the tone deaf singing.
Stela is the only sister without an obvious Austen or Alcott analogue At five years old, she doesn t have much personality except being a cute, good tempered child who doesn t understand all the scary changes going on around her and clings to her adorable faerie friends for comfort.
Gogu Costi is a swoon worthy male lead, and not just for his aristocratic profile and beautiful emerald eyes As a frog, he can be snide and funny, or mysteriously sad As a man, he s the soul of kindness, loving Jena from afar even when she has lashed out at him out of fear He s quiet and gentle and takes nothing for granted He s a bigger man than his brother without ever raising a hand to him, and it s implied that after the book ends, he will become a respected leader in the community Not as dastardly clever as Eugenides The Thief, The Queen of Attolia HowlHowl s Moving Castle, or Vidanric Crown Duel, Court Duel , but just as romantic and strong He s earned his spot in my Heroic Heartthrob Hall of Fame Sorrow has also earned a spot in the HHHF, even though he never speaks until the climax, for his risking his life on a near suicidal quest to earn his sister s ransom from the Night People He redeems himself a thousand times over for any superficial resemblance he may bear to Edward Cullen Also, he is not actually a vampire Yay Tadeusz is a perfect vampire proud, secretive, sultry, cool headed, and Machiavellian His wooing of Jena is portrayed exactly how it should be intriguing, but never safe or good On the surface, he can be flippant and selfish, even sadistic but it is implied near the end by Draguta, who would know that there s still a spark of good in him, and that he actually loves Jena in his fashion Suffice that he works as either a pure villain or a tortured soul who yearns for goodness and light but is afraid to accept them.
Cezar starts out an insecure boy in a desperate rage to prove himself a man, and over the course of the novel it consumes him Draguta, the witch of the wood, is a laugh riot while at the same time being quite spooky More than anyone else, she personifies the whimsy, both light and dark, that characterizes this novel.
Content Advisory for Teachers, Librarians, Parents, and Sensitive Kids ViolenceUncle Nicholae is felled by a crossbow bolt to the chest in a hunting accident He bleeds out on Cezar, who in his daze of grief leaves a trail of blood dripping from his garments all over the house.
When Tadeusz and his friends help Jena by mending the manor fence even though she told them it was unnecessary , they compensate themselves by draining the blood from a village girl, who does not survive the ordeal Her death is not shown.
This motivates Cezar and the other men of the village to scour the woods for the Night People, but Tadeusz and company are far too crafty for them But Cezar does manage to capture an innocent dwarf one of Ileana s folk who has nothing to do with the vampires tortures him ostensibly for information , and murders him The death of the dwarf, Anatolie, is not shown, but he was a friend of the sisters The Night People enjoy torturing those who wander into their realm uninvited When Tati and Jena foolishly accept Tadeusz invitation there, they witness vampires forcing an exhausted man to dance, and throwing sharp objects at a woman caught in a big bag like a cat A drunken Cezar hits Jena when she rejects his advances When sober, he threatens her, her sisters, and their servants He tries to throttle Costi SexTadeusz is a sensual creature, and though his interactions with Jena are chaste, it is clear that he would like that to change eventually He runs a fingertip down her neck at one point, causing Gogu to hop on him.
Cezar gets drunk at a party and pins Jena against the wall, forcing a kiss on her and attempting to molest her Disgusted, she fights him off, and he strikes her At this same party, Iulia, who s only thirteen but has the figure of an older girl, shows up in a low cut gown, hoping to look like a grown up Before Jena can loan her a shawl or scarf, Cezar yells at Iulia, humiliating her in front of everyone Costi is nearly naked when he is unexpectedly returned to his human form Sorrow and Tati exchange what Hobbes the tiger, not the guy who wrote Leviathan would term muchas smoochies , but given the time period and what good kids they are, it s unlikely that they did anything Substance AbusePeople drink at a party none of the main characters to the point of drunkenness save Cezar This story takes place long before age limits were extant or needed on alcohol Possible Religious ConflictTadeusz says that crucifixes and garlic can t keep his kind out, and the house of the girl they killed was said to be well protected However, Jena never witnesses this for herself, and Tadeusz may well have been bluffing Yet the Church isn t portrayed as useless here Father Sandu, Paula s tutor, who doesn t even have any lines, is shown to be a wise, gentle man He tutors a girl at a time when that was considered foolish at best and possibly subversive Cezar stupidly banishes him from the village after the vampire attack, after which the situation gets steadily worse LanguageNone.
Conclusion Wildwood Dancing hooks you with its glorious prose, makes you root for its characters, and pulls you so deep in that when a familiar fairytale plot twist occurs, you re just as shocked as the characters are The chapters are long and languidly paced, but if you re like me, you won t be able to put it down.
Finally, I hope they never change the cover art for this one Kinuko Craft s painting isn t just gorgeous, but it s full of details from the book that you won t notice until you ve read the whole thing.
You might also likeChaliceby Robin McKinleyEastby Edith Pattou The books of Bayern by Shannon HaleBook of a Thousand Daysby Shannon HaleFairestby Gail Carson Levine The Secret Country trilogy by Pamela Dean The Howl s Moving Castle trilogy by Diana Wynn Jones The Queen s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix The Tortall Quartets Song of the Lioness, The Immortals, and Protector of the Small by Tamora PierceThe Lost Crownby Sarah MillerTreasure at the Heart of the Tanglewoodby Meredith Ann Pierce
The problem with this book is that it s not real.
Juliet Marillier is my arch nemesis and main rival We ve been competing against each other for the coveted title of 1 most followed Australian for awhile now The battle has been vicious The competition fierce image error What an enchanting story The kind that makes your eyes sparkle with wonder.
Juliet Marillier is a fine new discovery of an author for me Her writing is tremendously elegant, soft to the ear, and flowing like a gentle but unwavering wave It will catch your attention but also manage into holding it Juliet Marillier is talented, without doubt.
Fairy tale retellings sweep me off my feet I love princesses, knights, otherworldly creatures, prophecies, curses, witches, seeing true love bloom and everything else this genre has to offer Wildwood Dancing is beautiful and truly magical It isn t without flaws, and I will get to that, but reading it means hearing the witch cackle, feel the sisters love for one another in the air and your heart twist in knots to what is unfair A delight to the senses The villain in the story, going by the name of Cezar, is what makes this book four star worthy instead of five, mainly Being an antagonist, we can comprehend his being nasty, foul and manipulative, but is it really necessary for us to be exposed to him so much I am the kind who enjoys villainous characters, for the contrast it brings to the atmosphere, but a character that destroys others spirits and hopes is not welcome in every chapter I grew tired of him Jena is a magnificently strong, adventurous and courageous lead heroine She and her sisters lives are prone to change when the Night People start roaming about the Other Kingdom and one of their own falls in love with one of those dark beings I do admit that we do not get as much of the other sisters as we do about Jena and Tatiana, but that is mostly because they are too young to have their own world shattering conflicts, and that s for the best Too much drama is never welcome Also, there is a companion novel with as lead one of the young sisters, to make up for it, I like to think.
I am than glad I gave this sadly under the radar book a chance.
Here s hoping you will, too.