Ashley's Reviews > Wildwood Dancing

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
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's review
Jan 02, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: fairy-tales, blog, own

Originally reviewed on my blog, Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing.

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marrilier is one of the most unique and beautiful retellings for The Twelve Dancing Princesses. It is primarily Jenica's story, the second of five sisters, although Tatiana, the eldest sister, has an important role in the direction the story goes as well.

As young children, Tatiana (Tati) and Jenica (Jena) discovered a portal that opens each full moon into the Dancing Glade within the Other Kingdom. They have gone through the portal each full moon since then (with, I believe, a few absences for illness and the like) and as the younger sisters were born, they brought Iulia, Paula and Stela into Glade with them. And there they dance until dawn, each full moon with the magical and mysterious beings who dwell in the Other Kingdom.

Things are going wonderfully until their father gets fall ill and must move to a warmer climate for the winter. The girls are left behind on their estate, and Jena is left in charge of management. She has been helping her father for years, and it is decided that she can remain in charge, with the understanding that their cousin Cezar, who lives on a neighboring estate with be around to offer whatever assistance is necessary. And then, Tati falls in love with one of the dangerous 'night people', Cezar begins trying to seize power of their estate from Jena, not to mention trying to own Jena herself and everything they love is suddenly in danger.

This is one of those books that I loved, but wasn't really sure I liked all of it.- Does that even make sense?! Probably not... I shall try to explain. As I mentioned above, Wildwood Dancing is one of the most unique and wholly original fairy tale retellings I have read. The Twelve Dancing Princesses is my favorite fairy tale of all time, and I have read a lot of retellings of it. This one reaches a level of beauty, originality and magic that I have never come across before in a book of any kind. But, I had been hearing from so many people how amazing the book was, and when I first read it, it was at a time when I was looking for something just a little bit different. (Incidentally, it turns out that what I was actually wanting to read at the time is something that I got from its sequel, Cybele's Secret, which is not a retelling, but tells us Paula's story.)

Don't get me wrong here. I did genuinely love this story. Marillier's writing is enchanting and completely believable. While reading, you think you are quite clever, and you understand where the twists in the story are going to take you. And, you are right, but oh so wrong as well. The story is so much more complex and interwoven than it would appear at first and there were moments when it stunned me completely and I was left breathless. It is also a story that, as time goes on, I cannot remember any flaws within. I cannot remember what it is that made me give it 4 GR stars instead of 5, and back then my reviews were horrifyingly vague and short.

And now, I'm going to devote an entire paragraph to Gogu, Jena's pet frog. She found Gogu in the woods when she was very young and he has been her constant companion and trusted confidant since then. I know he is a frog, but he is still one of the absolute greatest characters in this book. It is clear that he cares for Jena as much as she loves him, and they have been together so long they are able to communicate through facial expressions, body language and an almost uncanny ability to sense what the other is feeling. Honestly, if I could only pick one, I think Gogu would be my favorite character of the story. I want a pet frog like Gogu!

This is a book that retains it's magic no matter how many times it's been read, that no matter how familiar you think you are with the story will continue to enchant, amaze and surprise you. I highly, highly recommend this book. I have more of Marillier's book on my tbr, and I find myself itching to re-immerse myself in the magic she creates.

(Review Update: I spent some time after I wrote this review rereading my favorite parts of this book (something I do regularly with books I love) and I remembered why I had somewhat mixed feelings the first time I read it- I hated Tatiana. Like, hated her. I don't like or relate to her character, and she really pissed me off. I get it, but I don't have to like it.)
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05/10/2016 marked as: read

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Leslie First person I've seen say something about Tati, thank you! I couldn't stand her either.

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