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Monday, July 03, 2006

Daughter of the Forest, by Juliet Marillier

I have decided, rather to my surprise, that Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest (New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2000) is one of my favorite books. It's over 500 pages long.

For more information on Marillier's writing, see my previous posts on it, here and here. In these posts, about two more recent novels by Marillier, I pointed out that she is a self-proclaimed pagan, but wrote of material from these novels, Wolfskin and Foxmask, indicating that not only is a Catholic priest portrayed in a positive light, and one of the main characters in the book, but that Marillier actually includes a passage in which a character comes to belief in the Christian God. All of her books that I have read are set, more or less, in and around the British Isles, during the Middle Ages. All of them have appeared in the Fantasy section of bookstores. They all include romantic love -- eros, in the terminology of C. S. Lewis.

I'm trying not to give away the plot in this post, at least no more than the back cover of the book does.

I hadn't really paid attention to Christianity in Marillier's writing when I first read Daughter of the Forest. This time, after finding it inescapable in the two novels mentioned above, I looked for it. It's there, but not so much as in the later books. There is a priest who is an important character, but he is not so throughout the book, only in the first part. There is another priest who plays a minor role later. Both are portrayed quite positively. (There is another priest mentioned briefly, who does not appear, who is apparently not such a good man.)

Since the events occur early, and are at least hinted at on the back cover of my copy, I will say that Sorcha, the seventh child of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters, must try to save her six brothers, Liam, Diarmid, twins Cormack and Conor, Finbar and Padraic, from an enchantment laid on them by their stepmother, Oonagh. (Their mother, Niamh, died in birthing Sorcha.) The book, told by Sorcha, is the story of how she works to save her brothers, and how she falls in love. The main appeal, for me, is the agonizing ordeal she must go through, the good writing, the reverence for nature, and the good characters Sorcha finds from time to time, sometimes in unexpected places.

As in Wolfskin and Foxmask, there are religions beside Christianity. Although not much is said about them, there are Druids in the book. Nonhuman beings, with limited supernatural powers, appear occasionally.

As I said, Christianity isn't as openly presented in this book as in the other two, but it is there, and treated with respect throughout. So is Druidism. A Druid says this: "There is no good or evil, save in the way you see the world. There is no dark or light, save in your own vision." (p. 535. I don't know if this is Druid doctrine, or just the character speaking for himself.) In a way, the whole book has argued against that very belief -- there are good people, and evil ones, in it. Christianity doesn't so much teach that there are bad and good people, as that there is evil in the world, and that if we don't choose to follow Christ, we will be a part of it.

Thanks for reading.

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