Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Juliet Marillier's Wildwood Dancing

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier. Review by Chantal Walvoord

For a delightful break from reality, read Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier. This coming-of-age fantasy will interest young adults and adults alike. Marillier captures all of the wonder and horror that abounds in the original fey stories, yet she gives her heroines problems that anyone could identify with. Is it better to be safe or to take a risk? Is it better to control or to let go and trust your instincts? In chasing monsters (and seeking revenge) do we become what we chase?

Wildwood Dancing opens with a line that piques the reader’s interest, “I heard it said that girls can’t keep secrets. That’s wrong: we’ve proved it.” Every full moon four sisters, who live in a Transylvanian castle, lock their bedroom door and pretend to fall asleep. Then, they step into a portal that takes them into the Other Kingdom--the fairy realm of Wildwood forest—where they enjoy a night of dancing on the green.

After their father’s health deteriorates, the girls must deal with their ambitious, narrow-minded cousin, Cezar, who takes away their home and family business. The girls’ father, a textiles merchant, has left Jena in charge of the business, yet Cezar seizes it. Cezar also threatens to fell the woods surrounding the castle and promises to destroy the fairy realm that offends his sense of propriety.

Loosely based on Grimm’s “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” and “The Frog Prince,” Marillier breaks new ground with this young adult novel. More than anything this is a novel about consequences. “Nothing comes without a price,” the old crone tells Jena and her two cousins when they, as children, make the mistake of playing “King of the Lake” in the Dead Wash. The consequences of that forbidden game will have far-reaching effects—altering Cezar, Costi, and Jena’s lives while also binding them together.

Wildwood Dancing is also about impossible love, betrayal, and forgiveness. Fans of the Twilight series may enjoy the “doomed love” plot involving Tatiana and Sorrow. Sorrow is one of the Night People, who finds temporary refuge in Ileana’s glade. In addition to dealing with the supernatural elements from the Other Kingdom--an otherworldly frog, a witch who rides a white fox, the strange Night people--Jena must also deal with the desire to find love, independence, and self-fulfillment in her own world.

Wildwood Dancing won an Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel (2006) and is a YALSA Best Book for Young Adults (2007).