Wildwood Dancing  - Juliet Marillier Hm, this one is tough to rate. Higher than three stars, but definitely not round-upable to four. So I guess 3.25 stars?

As always Juliet Marillier's prose is lovely and atmospheric. A retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses and The Frog Prince, the story is set in Transylvania and told from the perspective of Jena, the second eldest sister out of five, all of whom visit the fairy realm through a secret passageway in their bedroom.

When their ill father leaves Jena and her sisters for the winter, Jena is left in charge of the holding. However, though capable and independent, Jena and her sisters run into trouble when their cousin attempts to take over the household's affairs in their father's absence. On top of that, the eldest sister Tati falls deeply in love with a man of the fairy realm in the midst of a brewing war between humans and fae.

The plot and setting were very unique. I'm impressed at how Juliet Marillier can weave so many different fairy tales and folklore into one story. The witch of the wood reminded of Baba Yaga, albeit much less antagonistic and without the house on chicken legs. The fairy realm and the cool, immortal fae that inhabit it had a distinct Sevenwaters feel. And the frog, well, while you may not expect it, the revelation of Gogu's past isn’t much as a surprise in hindsight.

But while these different elements were enjoyable, I found the plot unclear and the resolution of conflicts very deus ex machina. Jena, despite her effort to control the situation, is not the main mover of the story. From dealing with her infuriatingly sexist cousin Cezar to trying to pull her sister out of heartsickness, Jena is pulled from one situation to the next by the whims of others. She talks about independence and justice, but she does not seem capable of enacting her beliefs.

A common theme in Juliet Marillier's book, at least the three I've read, is that a strain of feminist independence is always contrasted against masculine dominance. Not surprising, since such political and societal inequalities were ingrained in many historical societies. In Wildwood Dancing, however, this gender inequality isn't a part of society, as it may have been, but is rather starkly illustrated only by Cezar's overbearing and infuriating masculinity. Cezar was a great villain in how he slowly exerted his control over the household, but if that's the case, I would like a strong protagonist who can fight it. Jena seemed too weak to be his foil. She passively allowed such encroachment, which made me skip a few chapters ahead to avoid the domestic drama.

Also, most of the issues in this story were resolved by outside forces, particularly Cezar's encroachment on Jena's holdings and Tati's heartsickness. This just seemed to happen after a period of time, and all Jena had to do was wait and watch.

Overall, a decent read and worth it, though the story falls below that of the Sevenwaters series.

In sum, 3.25 stars.