Daughter of the Forest - Juliet Marillier A lovely debut novel. The Six Swans fairytale wasn't one of my favorite fairy tales as a child, so I've not read many retellings of it (partially because it is not as popular as other fairy tales). But I would say this is one of the better (if not one of the best) retellings of the tale out there.

The world of Ms. Marillier is alive and beautiful and brutal. Sorcha, the protagonist of the story, struggles to overcome a curse placed upon her brothers. The conditions: she must sew six shirts from the painful nettle plant with no help, and she must do so in complete silence. Of course, in true fairytale fashion, she endures countless hardships along the way before finally lifting the curse. And some of the trouble she encounters is exceedingly brutal indeed.

While all this this points to a potentially long and painful account of Sorcha's struggle to finish her task, Ms. Marillier does a wonderful job at keeping a steady momentum until the end; that is, the parts that "lag" are kept at a minimum. This, I appreciated because I was able to sympathize with Sorcha while also taking in the beauty of the Sevenwaters world without feeling exhausted.

My one criticism is that while the book reads like an extended fairytale, like a story told in front of a fireplace, I feel that for the length of this novel, the author could have done a better job at fleshing out characters and situations more. For example, I found Lady Oonagh to be some of the more interesting characters. She's clearly supernatural with fey-like qualities, but still very much a part of the human realm. What were her motivations for making Sorcha's and her brothers' lives a living hell? In a fairytale, the storyteller would just say that she is "evil," therefore she commits evil deeds. But as we can see with Sorcha and Red and even Simon, all beautifully written characters, Ms. Marillier is more than capable of assigning realistic motivations and personalities to her characters. I am almost tempted to just write off Lady Oonagh as playing a part in this grand fey game--using Sorcha and her family as disposable chess pieces--and therefore incomprehensible like the Fey Queen. But that seems wanting.

But despite this one tic, the writing and the story was very elegant.

Recommended, especially if you like fairytale retellings!