It’s rare that I find a books that causes me to say, “I’m going to buy this” just from reading the first few chapters. Wildwood Dancing has made that list. I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised though, Juliet Marillier wrote Daughter of the Forest, (a retelling of “The Wild Swans”) which I loved as well!
Wildwood Dancing retells the stories of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” and “The Frog Prince” and smushes them together into a new, surprisingly cohesive story. It’s hailed as a children’s book, written for the 12 – 15 age group, but I can’t really see why – the character development, plot structure, and “love” story are better developed than many YA and “adult” fantasy novels that I’ve seen. Add to that some absolutely gorgeous cover art by Kinuko Craft, and we have ourselves a very enjoyable read.
There were, however, two things that bother me about this book – enough to knock it from a solid 4 star rating to a high 3 star one (like, 3.75). The first thing is just personal preference, but a lot of the story is about things going horribly wrong. Parts of it are intriguing and rather exciting, but the sections in the human world seem to drag on. While I didn’t have to force myself to keep reading, it did feel like a slog a few times.
This ties in directly with my second complaint. The main character, Jena, is a strong, intelligent, capable young woman. So much so that her ailing father leaves the care of the family estate to her while he goes to warmer climes to recover. Of course, as soon as he is out of the country, Jena’s overbearing male cousin seizes control and undermines all of her authority.
And she lets him.
Oh, she complains about it, all right. She protests the injustice of it, points out repeatedly that this is not what her father would want, and then does nothing. Like me, she seems to operate under the misconceptions that if injustice is merely pointed out, it will stop or be changed, that unjust people can be reasoned with, and that injustice is obvious to everyone. In this, she has my full sympathy, yet I still found myself wondering why she didn’t tell the town magistrate or the family matriarch what was going on.
Anyways, aside from those to things (which grated oh-so-much), the faerie world is wonderfully atmospheric and confusing, the love story is sweet, and the danger sufficiently ominous to keep readers interested. So, all in all, I plan on buying it as soon as I can find a used paperback copy at one of the local bookstores.