Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

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Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: An enchanting story of love, peril and family bonds in the atmospheric setting of a Transylvanian castle and forest, this competent novel is not exactly breaking new ground, but it's a decent piece of entertainment and will be enjoyed by all readers who enjoy a faerie tales, from teenagers to adults.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: December 2007
Publisher: Tor
ISBN: 978-0330438285

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Wildwood Dancing belongs to a genre called, for some reason, Young Adult even though it would be better defined as older teen as YA books usually feature characters that are aged 15+ and often (if not always) concern themselves with formative experiences, coming of age, sexual and romantic awakenings and other subjects of major interest to older teenagers but also capable of engaging a not-so-young-adult.

And so with Wildwood Dancing: an atmospheric fairy fantasy set in remote Transylvania in time unspecified. Janica, Tatiana, Iulia, Paul and Stella are merchant daughters and sisters, living in a castle called Piscul Dracului (Devil's or Dragon's Step: these terms are, apparently interchangeable in Romanian). The castle stands on the edge of a mysterious wildwood, which the valley people treat with respect and fear. The girls have a secret: every Full Moon they leave their bedroom using a secret, magical portal and dance the night away in the Other Kingdom: a strange, wondrous and slightly scary world sharing some aspects of space and time with the human world, but set apart. The trouble starts when the girls' father gets ill and has to leave the valley for the winter. Their cousin Cezar starts taking over, despite the girls' father leaving the running of the household and business to them. To add to the troubles, The Night People have appeared at the dancing glade in the Other Kingdom, and the eldest sister Tati has fallen for somebody they brought with them.

I wasn't particularly drawn into the Wildwood Dancing at first. The writing seemed a bit pedestrian, and the story commonplace (as far as a faerie story can be a commonplace one), with not much ahppening and nothing in the scene-setting to make up for this lack of action. But as the events gathered speed and the dilemmas faced by the girls became more serious, I started enjoying the tale. The characters are well differentiated, especially the sisters: the scholarly Paula, the desperately romantic, beautiful Tati, flirty Iulia and Jena herself, the sensible, businesslike one, the one on whose shoulders the main responsibility for the whole family lies, the one who will have to make the moral decisions, and the one who narrates the story.

The romance and growing up are the main focus of the tale, while the good-against-evil drama of the classic fantasy is somehow absent. But there is love and despair, faith and desire, trust and responsibility that all of the girls learn, while the subject of the relationship with the Other Kingdom can be easily interpreted as reflecting our relationship with nature. I also liked the fairies, witches and other fey creatures in Wildwood Dancing: they were neither completely bad or completely good, with various realms within the Other Kingdom and even the vampire-like Night People not entirely evil, though seemed to veer quite close to it.

With its unusual setting and a mixture of magic, dramatic romance, nods to ecology and vaguely Eastern-European folklore (though in all honesty, apart from the names and possibly the chief witch Draguta, nothing seemed very far off the standard faerie imagery), Wildwood Dancing is a pleasant, competently written fairy fantasy, perfectly suitable for its target audience and might be enjoyed, but will be probably quickly forgotten, by all fans of the genre.

If you like that, you might also enjoy a more modern take on similar themes in Wicked Lovely while adult fantasy readers with a penchant for fey creatures might like a grittier coming of age tale set in a nightmarish Faerie The Iron Dragon's Daughter or the stylish pastiche of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel by Susanna Clarke. For a younger audience, a brilliant Romanian-set story of the supernatural can be found in My Swordhand is Singing.

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Buy Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier at Amazon.com.


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