Because I’m not quite ready to discuss Bleak House (which I finished last night), this week I’ll be revisiting another old favorite–one of Juliet Marillier’s few forays into YA lit.
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
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Summary: 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.
This was a book that I read in one sitting my first time through and loved so much that I proceeded to read it two more times in a row. I adore the way Marillier combines The Frog Prince and The Twelve Dancing Princesses with Romanian folklore. If you, like me, are a sucker for fairy tale retellings, this one is top-notch.
I purchased this audiobook several years ago and have listened to it countless times since. Last week, I picked it up for another go-around.
You may be wondering, though… if I profess to love it so much, why give it such a low rating? Let me explain… I decided to give the story a 3.5 mainly because I’ve grown up since I fell in love with this book. I don’t see the world the way I did when I was sixteen–and, frankly, some of the romance in this story is hard to believe. For the majority of the book, the main love story exists between Tatiana (the eldest sister) and Sorrow, a man from the Other Kingdom. As I listened to their romance unfold, all I could do was roll my eyes–mainly because Tati is underdeveloped and boring, making her hard to relate to. This is countered well by Jena’s love story, but I won’t go into ’cause I don’t want to spoil too many things.
I’ve always loved the protagonist of the novel, though. Jena is intelligent, capable, and willing to go to any lengths to protect and preserve those she loves. This time through, I kept wondering… what is her Meyers-Briggs type? I normally don’t try to figure this out about characters, but Jena has always left such a lasting impression that I couldn’t help pin her as a ISTJ. (Full personality description here) After doing some digging, I realized that my prediction was spot-on. Jena is ruled by her sense of duty and follows common sense without fail. One of her main areas of growth is learning to trust her instincts and learn to go by her feelings, not by logic. This struggle is a real one–there are times when I want to reach into the book and shake her. She learns her lessons slowly, which is frustrating because things would be so much better for everyone if she just stopped over thinking herself. All in all, Jena is an enjoyable character to spend time with and, above all else, her growth is the most interesting.
Marillier is one of my favorite fantasy writers–I’ll read anything published with her name on it. Even though my original zeal for this book has faded with age, it’s one that I know I’ll always return to.
“Death is final. The felling of trees is final. What we ask of you is simply the recognition of change, Jena. Yours is a world of constant change. You must learn to change, too. You spend a great deal of time worrying about others: trying to put their lives right, trying to shape your world as you believe it should be. You must learn to trust your instincts, or you are doomed to spend your life blinded by duty while beside you a wondrous tree sprouts and springs up and buds and blooms, and your heart takes no comfort from it, for you cannot raise your eyes to see it.”
You Will Like This Book If: You love fairy tales, cute romance, folklore, and vampires
Stop by next week for my thoughts on Bleak House by Charles Dickens!