Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bookshelf: Wildwood Dancing

Five sisters alone in a Transylvania castle during a long, dark winter; five sisters with a secret portal in their shared bedroom, leading them to a fairy court; five sisters whose lives begin to fall apart as their childhood dreams begin to clash with the outside world. Can a book really get much more lolita-esque than that?
Wildwood Dancing is a charming book for anyone with a love of fairy tales, especially the more obscure ones: there's bits from the Twelve Dancing Princesses here, along with the Princess and the Frog, and snippets from so many others, blended up with a gothic dollop of Romanian folklore. The author, Juliet Marillier, clearly knows her lore, and weaves old ideas and new interpretations throughout the story. She uses the Romanian setting not only as a creepy, beautiful backdrop, but also as a key point in the story: many of the challenges the sisters face come from local custom and culture, rather than the paranormal. 

In summary: Jena and her four sisters have been sneaking off every full moon for years, through the magic gateway in their room and into the court of the fairy queen, where they dance the night away. When their merchant father falls ill and must spend the harsh winter recovering in a warmer climate, they are left alone to handle the castle - and the predatory encroachment of their cousin, who does not believe women can handle business, or even managing their own house, without the protection of a man. At the same time, the mysterious arrival of the Night People to the fairy court throws the supernatural balance out of whack, leading to a confrontation between the fairy court and the human realm.

The only caveat I had about this book: the writing is lush and dense, much more so than most contemporary young adult novels. That makes it a slow read, great for those who enjoy spending loads of time exploring a novel, and possibly frustrating to those who (like me) are anxious to find out what happens in the end! And for those who do want more, there's apparently a semi-sequel available, called Cybele's Secret.

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