Sunday, March 9, 2014

Book Review: Seer of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

Source: Seer of Sevenwaters
by Juliet Marillier

Seer of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

Series: The Sevenwaters Novels (Book #5) - all can be read as standalones
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Release date: December 1 2010
Tagged under: adult fiction, fantasy, mythology, 2014 read
Pages: 402
Buy at: Amazon

One last summer before her awaited destiny...

Sibeal has always known that she is destined for a spiritual life, and is committed to it with all her heart. The only thing left for her to do before she enters the nemetons is to spend the summer visiting her sisters, Muirrin and Clodagh, on the northern island of Inis Eala. 
But Sibeal has barely set foot on the island before a freak storm out at sea sinks a ship before her eyes. In spite of frantic efforts, only three survivors are fished alive from the water, and one of them, a man Sibeal names Ardal, clings to life by the merest thread. 
Life continues on the island, as it must, and Sibeal befriends Ardal as he begins to regain his health. But it becomes clear there is something unusual about the three shipwrecked strangers. Why won't the beautiful Svala speak? And what is it that the gravely ill Ardal can't remember - or won't tell? When a visiting warrior is found dead at the bottom of a cliff, and an attempt is made on Ardal's life, Sibeal finds herself a pawn in a deadly game. The truth will be far more astonishing than she could ever have believed - and the consequences for Sibeal unimaginable.

Book Review [Spoiler-Free]

After a long week at work, I had been all set to sit down and catch up on my backlog of books to review. I had even narrowed my selection down to either The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick or The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. But then, before I started, I decided to continue on reading Seer of Sevenwaters, which I started a couple of days ago, and suddenly found myself unable to put the book down. And once I was done, I went and devoured the next book in the series, Flame of Sevenwaters. Now I can't think of anything but the Sevenwaters novels so here's the review.

I first came across Juliet Marillier's work in high school when the cover of the first book in the series, Daughter of the Forest, caught my eyes. On a whim, I borrowed it, consumed it over the span of a couple of days and fell in love with Marillier's style of writing. In fact, as I type this, I couldn't help but think I should have mentioned her works in the Feature Follow Friday post as well. Some of her novels are retellings of old familiar fairy tales and others might be as well, though I'm not too familiar with the stories. Every single one is beautifully woven together as a series yet each one is a standalone, which is awesome and completely ruins me for waiting around for new releases in an unfinished series.

Back then, there were only three novels in the Sevenwaters Trilogy: Daughter of the Forest, Son of the Shadows and Child of the Prophecy. Then, when I went to the library recently, I discovered that there are now three new books in the series. Seer of Sevenwaters is book #5 and it follows the story of Sibeal as she spends one summer before her sisters in Inis Eala before she returns home to lead a spiritual life. 

Wow, Juliet Marillier has not lost her magic.

The story, though seemingly simple on the surface, just continues to unfold and develop as you turn the pages. It is a slow but steady read and some readers may have issues with its pacing. Even myself, familiar with Marillier's style of writing, often find myself bouncing in my seat like a little child impatient for the storyteller to continue on with the tale. And Marillier does feel like one of those wise woman who sits by the fireplace and regales children both young and old with her stories. The language is stunningly beautiful, the imageries she create vivid and the characters are all strong and well-crafted. And when everything all comes to a head, as it does towards the last third of the novel, I was practically chewing on my fingernails as I willed my eyes to read faster so I can find out what happens. The ending is beautiful and justified, leaving me perhaps a little bit stunned as I did not see it coming at all. 

Plus, one of the best thing about Marillier's works are that they are all standalones so you can be assured of a decisive conclusion at the end of each novel. While they are all linked up to each other as part of the Sevenwaters series and characters from previous and future works feature in each other, you don't need to have read the previous ones in order to understand what's going on. These books never end in a cliffhanger nor do they give you the sense that it's one plot stretched thinly over several volumes because the publisher wants to make more money. Each novel has its own protagonists, its own obstacles, and its own unique set of adventures to tell.

All in all, I really did enjoy reading it and the book certainly does have Juliet Marillier's magical touch stamped all over its pages. However, I can't help but feel this volume is perhaps the weakest of all six novels in this series (only by a slight margin though). Sibeal, being a trainee for the spiritual life, is not a woman of headstrong action with a thirst for adventure, though she is nevertheless brave and fearless in the face of danger. And for a major part of this novel, I was afraid there wasn't going to be any adventures like the ones in the previous novels. Perhaps this is all due to the fact that this story did not take place in the familiar forests that us readers have come to know and love.

Also, I should note that these novels are not for everyone. I've already mentioned the issue of pacing and for those readers who love fast-action style of novels or are pressed for time when they read, I probably wouldn't recommend these. These works really do have that idyllic story-telling pace to them, which really needs patience and time for the reader to truly enjoy and love them. In addition, Juliet Marillier is unapologetic in her depiction of certain adult issues such as abuse and rape so if you aren't fans of those being in the books you read, I'd recommend you to steer clear. I still remember feeling semi-traumatized after my first read of Daughter of the Forest. (But not all of her works contain these themes, but I thought I should mention it just in case)

Overall: 4/5

It's a solid read and I always enjoy Juliet Marillier's works. However, I do accept that they are not to everyone's taste nor is Seer of Sevenwaters perhaps the best one to showcase. For those who are interested in trying some of her novels, I'd strongly recommend the original Sevenwaters Trilogy or even her other works such as the Bridei Chronicles. For the YA-fiction readers out there, try her YA works such as Wildwood Dancing or its sequel Cybele's Secret


  1. I haven't heard of this series, sounds interesting!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

    1. You should definitely try some of her earlier works. The original Sevenwaters trilogy remains one of my favourite series and I love her Bridei Chronicles as well as Wolfskin and Foxmask.

  2. Ha - as I was reading this I was about to ask if you'd read her other series! I super love her Bridei Chronicles - I didn't even realize that it's historically based (Bridei was a real king!) until this year! I have been craving a reread of Daughter of the Forest too...but my library doesn't have it as an easy pick up and I keep forgetting to request it. That's probably one of my favourites out of all her books. I will say that her later Sevenwaters books haven't had as much of an impact on me as the original trilogy, and I often can't keep the heroines straight, which is a shame since they are all definitely unique. Have you read her Light Isles books? I'd love to see some more of those, but maybe her Shadowfell books which I haven't read yet will give me some of that diversity I'm craving in her Sevenwaters later books that I'm not getting. This was a really great review - it's spot on with how I felt about the book too!

    1. Thanks for stopping by this post. I'm so glad I'm coming across someone who's also read and enjoyed Juliet Marillier's works! Yes, I loved her Bridei chronicles and no, I didn't know he was a real king!

      Now that I've finished her latest Sevenwaters novels, I think I might rest a little bit before trying her Light Isles books or her latest series. It'll be interesting to see if it is of the standard as some of her older works. Whichever of us tries them out first should let the other person know!