Author: Juliet Marillier
Publisher: Tor Books
# of Pages: 400
Meh. I don't know why this book got such great ratings on Amazon. I thought it was distinctly like many other romance novels- though I suppose the added dimension of having six swans for brothers added a little to the plot.
I read this book for a Fantasy book group- the theme for the read was Fairy Tale Retellings. Daughter of the Forest is a retelling of an Irish fairy tale in which seven siblings are put under a curse by an evil stepmother. The six brothers are turned into swans, only to return to human form at midwinter and midsummer, from dusk till dawn. The youngest, the seventh and a daughter, escapes. But to save her brothers, she must keep utterly silent and weave them shirts made of starwort, a very painful plant.
She sets out to do this, going through harrowing experiences including rape in complete silence. And then she is found by an Englishman, who takes her back to his village and of course, promptly falls in love with her.
I bet you can guess the ending :-)
I'm not one to bash romance at all- I love it when it's done well. But here, both the hero and the heroine are too perfect. Neither of them seems to have any faults, and they go through that whole dance of "I am in love with you and you are in love with me, and I THINK that you are in love with me, but I'm going to pretend that you are not for the majority of the book, and then we can have a huge misunderstanding until the last few pages or so, when all comes to rights."
In a way, it's a good thing I didn't really care for this novel- there's one trilogy, at least, that I won't feel compelled to read!
Title: The Curse of Chalion
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
# of Pages: 512
Amazon review available here.
Favorite line: "Maybe you couldn't save yourself. Maybe you had to take turns saving each other."
This, on the other hand, is a series I definitely plan on continuing. The Curse of Chalion is one of Bujold's few and more recent forays into fantasy. She is more well-known for her science fiction adventures featuring a man named Miles with a very hard to spell last name. I have read none of these, but I hear that they are outstanding. So maybe some day, I'll give sci fi a try. Maybe ;-)
The Curse of Chalion is the first in a loosely-related trilogy, followed by Paladin of Souls and The Hallowed Hunt. If the sequels are as compelling as the first book (and rumor has it that they are), then they are well worth purchasing. Bujold's novel centers around a down-on-his-luck Lord Cazaril, who goes to a former employer to find work in the scullery and ends up being employed as a princess's tutor instead. He goes with the princess and her lady-in-waiting (two utterly likeable yet strong female characters) to the capital city, where he finds out that the entire royal family is under a curse, and that he must do all he can to save them from it.
It seems a fairly basic storyline, but when you add in Bujold's AMAZING detail, it fleshes out to something pretty impressive. She has developed the religion of Chalion, especially, very vividly- she even has her characters argue theology with each other in ways that really go above my head but are utterly fascinating to contemplate. For example- saints are not people who do work for the Gods, but are merely people who allow Gods to do work through them. Interesting theory, no? And that is only one such conversation- she fills the book with these, and the religion is so fascinating that I wouldn't mind reading one of the religious texts often mentioned in the book.
Along with the exciting gods and goddesses of Chalion, the human characters are worthy of your time and effort to get to know them, and the plot is well fleshed-out and entertaining. Two thumbs up!
Title: Howl's Moving Castle
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
# of Pages: 336
Amazon Review available here.
Favorite line: "I think we should live happily ever after."
I'll make no bones about it- I LOVED this book. Absolutely and completely. It is fun, humorous, entertaining and delightful reading. Aimed at young adults, and made into an enchanting anime movie (with a somewhat different plot), it really hits home for everyone. How many authors would write a story about a girl enchanted to become a 90-year-old woman and a vain, self-absorbed man in his 20s who is attempting to flee people asking him to do work? One author took this task on, and the result is excellent.
Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three sisters and therefore is destined to lead a dull, uninteresting life. That changes, however, when the Witch of the Waste puts a spell on her that makes her look like an old woman. Sophie then leaves town and heads for the moving castle owned by the wicked wizard Howl and sets herself up as his cleaning lady, finding that he is not quite so evil as he is made out to be, but that he is extremely narcissistic and pigheaded instead.
Chaos, as they say, ensues.
For a book geared at young adults, there are a great many lessons taught by this book. The "inner beauty" lesson. The importance of masks and how they make it possible for you to act differently than you normally would. How doing what you think is a good deed can really actually hurt you in the long run. The book has the added bonus of great one-liners, a compelling romance and loveable characters. I have the sequel to this book (Castle in the Air) as well, though I hear the main characters of Sophie and Howl do not play such a prominent role in that book. That's ok- I'm sure I'll snatch the book off my shelf as soon as possible, anyway.