Title: Seer of Sevenwaters
Author: Juliet Marillier
Published by Roc, 2011
How I discovered this book: I am a huge fan of Juliet Marillier’s (JM) work and the Sevenwaters series will forever be one my favourites epic fantasy series. I pre-ordered Seer of Sevenwaters as soon as news of the paperback edition came out and I waited until now to read it because I didn’t want to get closer to the end of a story that is so dear to me.
Review: Seer of Sevenwaters is the 5th Sevenwaters book and the 2nd of the new trilogy cycle of the series. The book follows the story of Sibeal, the fifth daughter of Sean, the current Lord of the Sevenwaters forest and stronghold in Erin (aka Ireland). She is a seer, a gift discovered when she was a child, and since that moment Sibeal knew that her destiny was to follow the spiritual path of a druid, a path rarely followed by women. That is her calling, to serve the gods in the nemetons as her uncles Conor and Ciáran, the last taking her as a student and teaching her all she needs to know to fulfill her destiny. Always calm, balanced and sure of herself, Sibeal feels ready to make the pledge that would officially make her a druid and leave her family behind to live in the nemetons.
Nevertheless, Ciáran decides she needs some time to test her emotions before leaving her family and sends her for a summer with her sisters Muirrin and Clodagh in Inis Eala, an island in the coast of Erin where her cousin Johnny leads a small community of legendary warriors and their families. Soon after Sibeal’s arrival, there is a shipwreck in the coast of Inis Eala. The only survivors were a Norseman called Knut, a mysterious woman called Svala and an unknown man. After this, Sibeal manages her time fulfilling the tasks of a druid in the community and tending to Felix, the unknown man she saved from the disaster. While Felix recovers his lost memory, the mystery around the shipwreck thickens and both he and Sibeal realise there’s a dangerous and perilous mission ahead and the success of it will depend on the bond that flourished between them.
Despite the wonderful and compelling writing of JM (she is a natural storyteller), and all the right ingredients of an unforgettable epic fantasy book, Seer was very different from its predecessors. First of all, the story set is not Sevenwaters. In this book Marillier answered to my wishes and allowed me to see what was like to live in Inis Eala, to re-encounter characters I thought that I would never see again (e.g. Gull and some of the warriors from Son of Shadows), to know more of Muirrin and Evan, Johnny and Garreth, Clodagh and Cathal, among other extraordinary well built secondary characters. Secondly, it’s the first book in the series where we really get to know the spirituality and religious aspects of Celtic Europe, since Sibeal is in every way a druid and we have lots of scenes evolving scrying, runes divination, etc. Also, the main characters are total nerds (Sibeal is a druid passionate for tales and lore, a spiritual leader in the community, while Felix is a scholar and a poet, always eager for debate and reasoning, the bright heart that inspires courage and challenges everything), and I loved them for it! Their scenes were not so frequent as I would wish, but they were always such a pleasure to read.
Sibeal’s inner struggle between what she believed to be her duty and the love for Felix was really interesting to read, and in some ways I could relate to that. She is a very logical character who does not cope well with emotional roller-coasters and changes in the well planed future of self-sacrifice she had come to be believe as hers.In one plate stands all her beliefs in the gods and her spiritual life as a druid, and in the other the person who is her soul mate her half in every single way *sigh*. Truth is she thought she was wiser than the rest, standing in a higher level than the common mortal. Knowing Felix and falling in love taught her a precious lesson and allowed her to grow up. Thirdly, since we are talking about islands and ships, we have a completely different mythological adventure, with sea monsters and some more awesome things that I just won’t tell you because I don’t want to spoil it. I’ll just tell you that I absolutely loved the myth behind the great mission and I couldn’t guess the mystery around Svala and the shipwreck until it was there in front of my eyes. Well done Ms. Marillier!
However, even for a fan like me, there were some things that could have been better. The first half of the book was too slow-paced. It didn’t bother me as much as it would with any other book because I really like JM’s writing and it suited the book’s atmosphere in the beginning. Still, Felix recovery and loss of memory dragged for too long. Although I loved the book for all the secondary characters, the ones I knew from earlier books and the new, I think JM focused too much of the story on them, leaving Sibeal and Felix with little opportunity for character/romance development. I’m not saying that they were not good characters or their love story wasn’t good, only that it could have been better if the first half of the book was better organised and we didn’t spend so much time with Clodagh and Cathal (main characters of Heir to Sevenwaters, book #4). This may seem a contradiction of sorts, because one of the things that made me enjoy this book so much was the re-encounter with old characters. But, at some point, I felt like they were stealing a bit of Sibeal’s and Felix’s spotlight.
Overall: My favourite series and my favourite genre! I can’t say that JM was at her very best with Seer of Sevenwaters. Either way, I think the author still rocked it despite everything and I can tell you that I’ll reread and fangirl over this book many times to come. If you are into well written myth-based epic fantasy with lots of angst, great characters, strong resourceful heroines, mystery, adventure and have a crush on Celtic mythology and history, these are definitely the books for you.
On a side note: This was my first review of a JM book in this blog and I must tell you that I always have a lot of trouble them. It’s always so hard to review a book or a series you are absolutely crazy about with some amount of coherence and consistency! While I was writing this review and thinking about the story, I was struggling to keep the fangirl in me from shrieking and jumping all around. It’s crazy, I know, but if you ever had a favourite series or book to review and you acknowledge yourself as a hardcore fan of it, you know what I mean. Therefore, I hope I was up to the challenge of remaining impartial. In time, I’ll write reviews for all the other Sevenwater’s books, so that those who are not familiar with the books may know where and how the story starts.
Quotes worth mentioning: “I had grown up. I had learned that being a woman was knowing when to stand firm and when to compromise. I had learned to laugh and weep; I had learned that I was weak as well as strong. I had learned to love. I was no longer a rigid, upright tree that would not flex and bow, even though the gale threatened to snap it in two; I was the willow that bends and shivers and sways, and yet remains strong.” “A wonder tale can be truer than true,” I said. I had learned (…) that the deepest kind of truth can be found in the strangest and wildest of stories. One may not meet a fire-breathing dragon on the way to the well. One may not encounter an army of toothed snakes in the woodshed. That does not make the wisdom in those tales any less real.”