This novel is really about how fate turns out, and how fate may be meddled with. How gifts may not be what they imagine, and that the time it takes to repair old ills could be forever. The power of true love, and the fragility of romance are also potent themes. Although we presume that the story must have a happy ending, at points you wonder how much damage will be done to Jena before that happens.
Jena’s father must leave behind his five daughters in a hope to become well and return. Jena is sure that she can keep things together, but with a big sister who won’t follow the rules.
This is a sort of rewrite of the fairytale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, but in this case, it is only five sisters. As you read, I’m sure you will pick up another fairytale vibe – I won’t tell you, it would spoil the surprise and suspense. Read it!
For me, I find the idea of marrying cousins a little repugnant, but I know that in the time this was set it would be considered quite normal. Costi and Cezar fight over Jena without even knowing it.
This novel has some of the fantastic world-building I expect of Marillier, but lacks the historical detail I would have appreciated. I didn’t really feel the space of the castle, or the thickness of the woods, instead it was more about Jena and her character progression. Nothing wrong with that at all, I’m glad she didn’t stagnate like Cezar.
Cezar is the bad guy in all of this. Quite unfair really, but of course children can’t be expected to know what they want – or is that really true? Jena doesn’t get exactly what she wants either, but she apparently accepts her other gift happily. And Costi? Well, he got the hard end of the bargain.
I love all of the girls, but really wish I could have gotten to know all of them better. There is another novel set in the same world which gives more information about Paula, the scholarly sister I believe. It was on the shelf right next to this one, but I didn’t snaffle it! The ending for Tati – I wanted to know more! More!
This was guilty reading, as I already have two novels I need to be finishing for tours very soon. Very enjoyable guilty reading though, and I don’t regret snatching the chance to read it.
I love Juliet Marillier’s work, and this would be one of my first choices for showing teens the way into fantasy. It’s a nice simple read, it only took me a couple of hours to read despite its apparent bulk. There is a hint of adult themes, with the groping that is aborted, but Jena reacts in an entirely appropriate way.