Jun 17, 2012

Why It Works: Daughter of the Forest

I discovered author Juliet Marillier several years ago the way I usually do - by checking out her book at the library. It was the first time I'd ever read her stuff. She's a fantasy author and honestly, fantasy isn't really my thing. But I was caught by the cover of Daughter of the Forest and by the blurb, which mentions an evil enchantress, a spell and a kidnapping. Marillier retells the Celtic tale of siblings who are turned into swans....only in her novel, there are six brothers and a sister, who must save them.

Here is how it starts:
 Three children lay on the rocks at water's edge. A dark-haired little girl. Two boys, slightly older. This image is caught forever in my memory, like some fragile creature preserved in amber. Myself, my brothers. I remember the way the water rippled as I trailed my fingers across its surface.
"Don't lean over so far, Sorcha," said Padraic. "You might fall in."
He was a year older than me and made the most of what little authority this gave him. You could understand, I suppose. After all, there were six brothers altogether and five of them were older than he was.
I ignored him, reaching down into the mysterious depths.
"She might fall in, mightn't she, Finbar?"
A long silence. As it stretched out, we both looked at Finbar, who lay on his back ,full length on the warm rock. Not sleeping: his eyes reflected the open grey of the autumnal sky. His hair spread out on the rock in a wild tangle. There was a hole in the sleeve of his jacket.
"The swans are coming," said Finbar at last. He sat up slowly to rest his chin on his knees. "They're  coming tonight."

Blue: Setting - although there is little to suggest where these characters are, it's clear they're in the woods by some amount of water (river, stream, pond?). Some of this is spelled out on the cover and the blurb, but they're obviously not in a city or any crowded spot.
Pink: narrator explanation - the girl called Sorcha is telling this story as an adult.
Orange: backstory - Sorcha has six brothers and she is the youngest. Padraic is the nearest brother to her in age. From Finbar's clothes and hair, these children are either poor or not well cared for.
Yellow: character reveal: The dark-haired Sorcha doesn't listen to Padraic, who appeals to Finbar for authority. So we know that Sorcha has a mind of her own, and both she and Padraic respect Finbar.
Green: mystery/foreshadowing - Why should Finbar care that the swans are coming? It's an odd thing for a boy to say.

Notice how Marillier works in these key elements using only a few hundred words. The Sevenwaters Series was supposed to be just a trilogy, but it's been so popular, Marillier is has written five books so far. 
Her sixth, Flame of Sevenwaters, comes out this November. Find out more about her here.
If you've read any of Marillier's books, share your favorite in the comments!
Have a great week,


Nicole said...

This book is sitting on my shelf as we speak! I haven't read it yet, but now I'm looking forward to it.

elizabeth seckman said...

That is an amazing cover! And the book sounds like it lives up to its beauty.

Cassie Mae said...

Lol, I'm a dork and love color coded things, so I love how you did this!

Looks like a great read!

Lisa Regan said...

Again, I love when you break things down like this! It really helps me as a writer!

Lynn Proctor said...

this sounds charming

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

I haven't read anything by this author, but I love how you dissected this, Melodie. I need to get better at slipping details into my writing and getting more bang for my buck with every scene. This author is an expert at it! :)

Daisy Carter said...

This sounds like a great read. I don't usually go for fantasy, either, but the premise is so intriguing. I love what you're doing in these posts; it's so nice to see how different writers rely on different tools to tell their story. SO helpful!