Combining several familiar fairy tales in her first novel for young readers, Australian author Marillier (Daughter of the Forest, for adults) crafts a romantic fantasy rich in detail, magical creatures and strong female characters. The Wildwood is a magical place ruled by Draguta, "the witch of the wood." For nine years, narrator Jenica (aka Jena) and her four sisters have secretly visited the Other Kingdom, which appears in the Wildwood every Full Moon and where they dance until morning. Though Tati is the oldest, 15-year-old Jena is the responsible sister; people find Jena a bit odd because she travels with a frog named Gogu ("My dearest friend, my inseparable companion and my wise advisor," says she). But the sisters' idyllic world begins to crumble when their cousin Cezar takes over running their estate, Piscul Dracului, while their father is away. Cezar hates and fears the Other Kingdom as much as Jena and her sisters love it. He plans to destroy the trees in the Wildwood, and Jena frantically seeks a way to save the magical world. Marillier weaves the tale of the frog prince into this lush novel, peopled with vampires and forest witches, and adds a surprise twist (involving Jena and her amphibian companion). Ages 12-up. (Jan.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Teens have long been fans of Marillier's adult-marketed titles, and her first book, Daughter of the Forest (Tor, 2000/VOYA December 2000), was an Alex Award winner. Her first book for teens is another winner. Jena and her four sisters live at Piscul Dracului in Transylvania with their widowed father. Every month at Full Moon, the sisters pass through a portal to the Other Kingdom, where they dance with fairy folk, dwarves, and other forest people. But now their father is ill and has gone away to a warmer place for the winter, and their cousin Cezar has arrived, trying to take control over Piscul Dracului and the girls. Meanwhile, at one of the Full Moon dances, Jena's older sister Tati meets and falls in love with one of the Night People, and Jena is sure nothing good can come of it. Jena tries to keep her family together, encouraged by her oldest friend, a frog named Gogu who can communicate only with Jena, but Cezar thwarts her at every turn. Readers of folk tales will recognize elements of several different ones here and may even anticipate some of the events of the story as Jena learns some truths about trust, betrayal, bravery, and true love. Marillier is one of literature's finest storytellers, and this book continues her tradition of telling stories with a striking sense of place, magical elements, beautifully portrayed characters, strong heroines, and an emotional core that touches the heart.
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, January 2007: Marillier turns to the magic and mystery of Transylvania for her newest novel. Jena, her older sister Tatiana, and her younger sisters Iulia, Paula and Stela all have a secret: every month on the night of the Full Moon, they open a secret portal into the Other Kingdom for a night of dancing among fairies, dwarves and trolls. The rest of the time, they keep house for their widowed merchant father and help with his business at Piscul Dracului. When her ill father leaves to spend the winter in a warmer climate, Jena's cousin Cezar begins to try to control Jena, her sisters, and their home. Furthermore, Tatiana becomes enraptured with a young man she meets in the Other Kingdom, who may be one of the dangerous and frightening Night People. Only the support of her sisters and of her enchanted frog Gogu sustains Jena in her ordeal. Marillier blends a variety of fantasy elements into her story: the sisters who slip off to dance in the fairy kingdom, the enchanted frog, and the legends of the bloodthirsty vampires of the region. The narrative is mesmerizing and tightly constructed from the beginning to the wholly satisfying end. Light humor enhances the story and rescues it from potentially overwhelming gloom. Jena and her sisters are delightful characters, strong and determined even in the face of the disaster. Cezar seems a tad heavy-handed at times, but Marillier manages to inspire sympathy for his character as well. Wildwood Dancing will appeal widely to YAs who like authors such as Patricia McKillip. (The stunning and detailed cover is by Kinuko Y. Craft, illustrator for most of McKillip's books.) In spite of its teenagedprotagonist, it will appeal to older readers as well. (An ALA Best Book for YAs.) Reviewer: Donna Scanlon
Gr 8 Up
This riveting story about 16-year-old Jenica; her pet frog, Gogu; and her four sisters takes place between the fairy world and the family's Romanian estate of Piscul Dracului. When the girls were young, they discovered a mysterious portal that appears every full moon and allows them access to the Dancing Glade in the Other Kingdom. They dress in the finest gowns and spend all night dancing with a host of bizarre and enchanting fairy creatures. Unfortunately, the girls' simple and carefree lives change drastically when their father becomes ill and must spend the winter in the milder climate of Constanta. Jenica takes charge of the estate and the family's merchant business but their overbearing, power-hungry cousin, Cezar, interferes with their affairs and questions the sisters' knowledge of the Other Kingdom. As he tightens the noose around them, everything Jenica has come to love-her sisters, her frog, her home, and the Dancing Glade-is in jeopardy. To make matters worse, her sister Tatiana has fallen in love with one of the mysterious and feared Night people. This relationship is doomed from the start and it is up to Jenica to make things right-but to do so she will be put to the ultimate test. Strong characters, two fully realized settings, and a fast-moving plot guarantee that readers will be spellbound by this page-turner.
Donna RosenblumCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Two Grimm's tales, a Transylvanian forest and purple prose combine in an entrancing rush of romance. Jena, the second-oldest of five sisters, has responsibility thrust upon her when her ailing father leaves, her elder sister falls in love with pale Sorrow from another realm and her aggressive, bitter cousin Cezar takes over the castle and finances. In childhood, Jena, Cezar and his older brother Costi were granted magical wishes in exchange for something dear. Costi drowned that day and Cezar hungers to destroy the Other Kingdom, where Jena and her sisters secretly go dancing every Full Moon. Jena's only solace is constant companion Gogu, a frog who shares her pocket, shoulder and pillow. Marillier falters in some ways; for example, Jena's primary struggle is supposedly between instinct and duty, but both sides read like instinct. Also, the narrative blames Jena more than seems fair. However, the consuming gothic love of Tati and Sorrow, and Jena's burdened but intoxicating relationship with her own slow-to-show true love, will sweep romance fans away. (author's note, glossary, pronunciation guide) (Fantasy. 10-14)
Starred review, School Library Journal, February 2007:
"Strong characters, two fully realized settings, and a fast-moving plot guarantee that readers will be spellbound by this page-turner."