Wildwood Dancing: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet MarillierIn the wilds of Transylvania, set on a high spur of rock next to the Wildwood, rests a castle named Piscul Dracului. The castle itself is unexceptional, old and crumbling as it is. Looking at it, you would never know it hides a portal to the Other Kingdom.

Each full moon five sisters travel through the portal into a magical glade where they dance with creatures rarely seen outside of fairy tales–fairies, dwarves, trolls and other creatures only whispered about back home.

For nine years of full moons, the sisters have gone dancing in the Other Kingdom.

Until now, the secret of the portal has been safe in Wildwood Dancing (2007) by Juliet Marillier.

Part retelling of the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses; part reinterpretation of classic vampire lore, Wildwood Dancing is an eerie, atmospheric story of forbidden love, precious gifts, and otherworldly creatures.

Marillier’s writing is rich and vivid, immediately transporting readers to the world of Jena (the narrator) and her sisters. Although dense with foreign terms (defined in a glossary at the end of the book) and unusual names (explained in a pronunciation guide at the end of the book), this story is sure to quickly enchant readers looking for a classic fantasy story with an original twist.

All of the sisters are distinct and well-developed characters who bring their own charms to the story. Although the eldest, Tati, grew tiresome as a lovesick heroine, she provided a good counterpoint to sensible Jena who prefers the company of her enchanted frog Gogu to the prospect of marriage.

Wildwood Dancing is largely a story about characters rather than events. Marillier takes her time getting to the crux of the story, using the beginning of the book to establish the setting and the characters, only to ultimately create a powerhouse, page turning, ending with unlikely twists and unexpected consequences for all of the sisters.

The story of Jena’s younger sister Paula continues in Cybele’s Secret, a companion to Wildwood Dancing.

Possible Pairings: The War for the Oaks by Emma Bull, Entwined by Heather Dixon, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, Beauty by Robin McKinley, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, The New Policeman by Kate Thompson, A Well-Timed Enchantment by Vivian Vande Velde

Exclusive Bonus Content: The cover illustration is my Kinuko Y. Craft–one of my favorite illustrators of all time. I loved the cover immediately but when I first started the book I wondered if it was really in keeping with the often dark tone of the book and the sparse, atmospheric prose. I have since decided it works perfectly. If you look really closely you can find a plethora of important elements and motifs to the story. And while the illustration might not be in keeping with Jena’s image of herself, I think it might be exactly how other people see her.

Unrelated: This review was really, really hard to write. I feel like it doesn’t do the book justice or go very far to explain how great it was. But it was really good and a must read.

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