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Wildwood #1

Wildwood Dancing

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High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It's an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle's hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.

But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he's there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena's sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom--an impossible union it's up to Jena to stop.

When Cezar's grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can't imagine--tests of trust, strength, and true love.

407 pages, Hardcover

First published July 1, 2006

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About the author

Juliet Marillier

76 books11k followers
Juliet Marillier was born in Dunedin, New Zealand and grew up surrounded by Celtic music and stories. Her own Celtic-Gaelic roots inspired her to write her first series, the Sevenwaters Trilogy. Juliet was educated at the University of Otago, where she majored in music and languages, graduating BA and Bachelor of Music (Hons). Her lifelong interest in history, folklore and mythology has had a major influence on her writing.

Juliet is the author of twenty-one historical fantasy novels for adults and young adults, as well as a book of short fiction. Juliet's novels and short stories have won many awards.

Juliet lives in a 110 year old cottage in a riverside suburb of Perth, Western Australia. When not writing, she tends to her small pack of rescue dogs. She also has four adult children and eight grandchildren. Juliet is a member of the druid order OBOD (the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,872 reviews
September 11, 2014

This is a book to be read in the fall, preferably a crisp October day. Wrap yourself in a warm blanket, curl up in your favorite reading seat, lose yourself in this magical fantasy.

I believe that hard work and perseverance supersedes natural talent, but sometimes, there is just no denying that some people were just born to be writers. I have read almost every single one of Ms. Marillier's books, and while the plot sometimes doesn't work for me in her adult novels, there is absolutely no denying the fact that she is one of the best fantasy writers out there today. Her characters, male and female, are believable, flawed, complex, interesting. The side characters are present, they are crucial; they are never relegated to the background at the expense of highlighting the main character's perfection. The settings within her books are always spectacularly wrought, be it a Celtic-based fantasy, or a dark Transylvanian village and castle within this book.

The plot flows like the finest silk. The writing is so beautiful that it fills me with joy. This is the kind of book you read in whispers, in a quiet reverence.

You want a beautiful setting? You got it. You want sisterly relationships that are better, (yes, I said it, BETTER) than Pride & Prejudice? Boom. You want magic? It's here. Read this book.

The Plot: This book is a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses, with a little Transylvanian vampire lore thrown into the mix.

There are five loving sisters living in a old, crumbling castle; they don't always get along, but there is no denying their love for one another. Jena is our narrator, the second oldest, the practical, rational, responsible one.

There is a magical gathering inside an enchanted land, in which mystical, fantastical creatures gather and dance under the light of the full moon. The cold, dark, starkly beautiful landscape of the forest, the wildwood, the Deadwash, Tǎul Ielelor.

There is a forbidden love between the much-beloved oldest sister and a tragic creature of the night. A clash between the two worlds that should never be.

There is a quest for vengeance from a bitter, controlling, cruel young man. A cousin of the family who is determined to destroy all that is magical about the Transylvanian forest.

There is a deep friendship between that young woman and her improbable pet, a magical frog.

There is a young woman's quest to keep her family together, and to save the enchanted land which they love so much, while learning her own inner strength and discovering the depths of her own heart.

The Setting: I know I am being so repetitive here, but there's no other words to describe the setting of this book. It is just magical, it is wondrous, in every sense of the word. Real life takes place in a village of Transylvania. It is a small village, overlooked by a grand, decaying, crumbling castle that is no less beloved for its ancient age, and its oddity in construction.
It looked as if it had grown up out of the forest, with an assortment of bits and pieces sprouting from every corner: tiny turrets, long covered walkways, squat round towers, arches, and flagpoles.
Piscul Dracului is the idyllic home of the five sisters and their loving widower father, a merchant who often travels. As children, the sisters stumbled upon a secret portal to a land of magic, the Bright Between, where festivities take place on the night of the full moon.
A circle of autumn-clad trees sheltered the grassy sward, their branches hung with still more lanterns. These cast a warm light over the brightly clad revelers, whose gowns and masks, robes and jewels filled the open space with a swirling mass of color. Above them, creatures performed aerial dances of their own, some borne on delicate, diaphanous wings, some on leathery, creaking membranes.
They wear their finest dresses and their sturdiest shoes, for they will dance all night surrounded by all sorts of creatures, bizarre and beautiful and everything in between. Every girl has their place in a clique here, from witches to dwarves to flying, feathery things that they call friends. As strange as they may seem to an observers, these odd beings are kind, friendly, welcoming. They have known these girls since some of them were little more than toddlers.
Stela was with the smallest folk, down near the musicians. There was a double ring of them, weaving in and out and around about in a dance of their own. Some had wings, some horns, some feathers, and some shining, jewel-bright scales. They were chattering like a mob of little birds as they pranced to and fro, and still managing to get every step perfect. We’d all started here; as we grew older, we had been welcomed by different folk, collected by different ferrymen, and permitted to mix more widely. Dancing Glade had its own set of rules.
It is a joyous, festive party, a bright spot in their everyday lives.

But not all is bright. We see the darkness, the growing suspicion and fears of the villagers as they grow to distrust the unseen creatures of the wild. Rest assured, the world of the village and the atmosphere is equally compelling. The setting in its entirety is so well-described, so beautifully spun. It is a feast for the imagination.

The Characters: I absolutely adored the sisters and their relationship. The five sisters within this book actually feel a lot like the five Bennet sisters, in some ways (albeit rather more lively). We have Tatiana, the eldest, the dreamy beauty whose love story is filled with obstruction; it may feel like a bit of a stretch, but I see a lot of Jane in her. Tatiana is deeply romantic, a lovely, sweet, gentle soul, easily hurt. Then there is Jenica, or Jena, our main narrator. I adored her. She is strong, she is the glue that holds the family together while their father is away. She handles a lot of the household affairs, she coordinates her sisters, she is ordinary, but wonderfully strong, rational, and above all else, loyal to her sisters. She is a thinker, she is too much of a thinker, and too wary at times, but Jena only wants the best for her family. Though strong, Jena is not without doubt, and it is hard to earn her trust. She has a good head on her shoulders.
“I don’t trust easily,” I said. “I don’t like violent solutions to problems. And I prefer to know exactly what I’m getting into...I’m careful,” I told him. “I look out for my sisters.”
There is also the flighty, flirtatious Iulia, a Kitty of sorts. The studious, book-smart, mentally brilliant Paula (who feels like a Mary), and the youngest girl, the adorable Stela.

There are many girls; I had no trouble telling them apart. I had no trouble distinguishing them from their personality, because they feel real. The dynamics between sisters are wonderful to see; they fight, they squabble, they love one another undisputedly.

The villains are many; there are characters from the Night People from the east. They are vampires, with plans of their own. But that's not all, there are enemies who are much closer to home, like Cezar, their cousin, who is determined to destroy the forest and the magical link in between worlds, for his own personal quest of vengeance.
Yes, I’m angry. I want the truth—and when I have it, I’ll use it to destroy those who tricked me, those who played the most evil joke in the world on me. I will tear them apart, limb from limb, and then I will destroy their forest so that they can never return to haunt me. I will drive them even out of my dreams.
Nobody is relegated to the background here, detail is paid every character, no matter how insignificant. I may not love everyone in the book, but every single character was exquisitely written.

The Romance: The romance is so subtle, so sweet, so light. There is that bitter ache of first love, but it is so much more than that. Love is portrayed in so many ways in this book. We see it as Tatiana falls for her forbidden young man, one who loves her equally in return, without hope of ever being together. We see it in other ways. It is not just romance between two people who are attracted to each other, it is love between sisters, the love of a loyal friend who has become your closest ally, your staunchest defender. Then there is the angry sort of love, the controlling sort, of a young man determined to control and overwhelm that whom he cannot have.

And then there is Jena, and her romance is the sweetest, because we have seen what she has gone through in order to achieve her happy ending.
His heart and mine added a rhythm all their own. We turned and turned, and with every turning we breathed a little more quickly and held on a little more tightly, and when we came back to the place where we’d started, we stopped dancing and stood with our arms around each other, holding on as if we would never let go, not if the sky fell and the whole world came to an end.
You will never regret reading this book.
Profile Image for Kat Kennedy.
475 reviews16.3k followers
November 21, 2011
The problem with this book is that it's not real.

Juliet Marillier is my arch-nemesis and main rival. We've been competing against each other for the coveted title of #1 most followed Australian for awhile now. The battle has been vicious. The competition fierce.

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Okay, maybe she's not as "aware" of this competition as I am... so what if it appears that she's almost never even ON Goodreads and by all accounts may actually have forgotten that she has a GoodReads? It still counts as a competition, right?

But since I've beaten her three weeks in a row, I feel confident that I can once again read her books.

This was a mistake. My jealousy only makes me hate her more. Because this book was fantastic, fantabulous, fantasmagorical.

Recipe for a Juliet Marillier book:

3 parts brilliant written prose
2 parts whimsical fancy
1 awesome female protagonist
1 can of whoop-arse

Available from all major grocery chains and retail outlets

I doubt anybody does magical faery realms and myth retellings with the style, flair and gothic majesty of Juliet Marillier.

I strongly recommend this book to anybody with an inner child and a desire to have their mind blown.

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Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
January 13, 2019
Gorgeous cover art, gorgeous story!

Wildwood Dancing is mostly a loose retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" fairy tale, but this novel, set in Transylvania in about the 1500's, pulls in threads from various fairy tales and legends and weaves them together. There are five sisters, ages 5-17, living in a castle on a mountain. Every full moon, the sisters go through a magical portal to the "Other Kingdom," a fairy land in kind of an alternate reality set very close to the real world. There they spend the night visiting and dancing with all different types of wondrous magical creatures, some appealing, some scary. The scary ones include vampires, and Jena, the second sister who is the narrator of the story, is afraid that her older sister Tatiana has fallen in love with a young vampire.

There are so many layers and elements to this story: a jealous cousin who tries to take control of Jena's family. A talking frog who is Jena's closest friend. Sibling rivalry. Powerful and remote faeries. Being sent on a quest for love. And looking back on it, I'm amazed at how wonderfully all of these complex themes and elements are woven together. And the underworld society of fairies and other fantastical, magical creatures is so vivid and imaginative. My only beef is that the villain in the story is a little over the top.

This one is enjoyable by young readers as well as adults. In fact, I think I need to go find it and read it again. When I first read this fairy tale novel I rated it four stars, but the more I think about this book and compare it to others I've read in the genre lately, the more I'm impressed with it. So it's belatedly getting all five stars.
Profile Image for Melindam.
664 reviews294 followers
May 30, 2023
2,5 underwhelming stars

The cover is gorgeous, but everything else about this book was pretty big MEH for me!

I proved to be too old an adult for this particular YA book.

To be fair, I probably would have loved it as a kid but I just cannot buy into this tale some 3 decades later.

It probably also did not help that the narrator had such a whiny and saccharine voice that it gave me a permanent toothache.

And what is it with authors trying to sell their heroines as oh-so-very-clever & sensible and then making them painfully dumb and ignorant at every turn because they cannot otherwise move the plot forward?? Seriously!

There is a deep and wide pool of selfish, helpless, imbecile heroines out there in fiction, but the main character’s (Jena) sister, Tati, takes the serious biscuit. She was completely braindead & made me want to slap her all the way to Transylvania and back just to make her see the slightest tickle of sense. She was beyond hope, really, amd all because of LUV as we are told.

- Tati, you are the eldest, all your sisters, especially your small sis of 5 years, really needs your help & support .... OH NOOOOOOOO, I caaaaaaan’t, I am hopelessly in LUV.
- But your father seems to be dying, your mother has already been dead and your younger sisters truly depend on your love & care .... OH NOOOOOOOO, I don’t care, I am hopelessly in LUV.
- But all your selfishness and your foolish acts actually endanger yourself, your lover as well as your sisters and your whole family .... OH NOOOOOOOO, I don’t care, I caaaaaaan’t, I am hopelessly in LUV.
- You are starving yourself to death, what must your sisters think & feel with you perishing & wasting in front of their eyes (and the youngest one – may I remind you of the fact that she is only 5?) .... OH NOOOOOOOO, I don’t care, I caaaaaaan’t, I am hopelessly in LUV.
- But it would help your lover in his difficult quest to win you if you believed in him and actually stayed alive & strong for him so that he can come for you at the end ... OOOOHHHH, I am soooo much in LUV, but NOT THAT MUCH!

Ah well, I guess it is all right then. Let’s move on.

Jena, the MC, has some saving graces even though most of the time she also acts unbelievably dim-witted and weak for someone who is supposed to be strong & sensible.
But at least when she is told off by her younger sister Paula – the only really clever, sensible and interesting character of the whole story – that she had selfishly abandoned her younger sisters, she has the grace to be ashamed of herself & tries to make amends.

It also irritated me how she tried to sort out everything on her own, like the increasing bullying of their cousin's, Cesar & when it was clear that she was too weak to get anywhere, she just gave up, moping and groaning and waiting for others' intervention.
It never, ever occurred to her to collect all her sisters, tell them about the problems, find solutions together & defy Cesar or even slap some sense into their obtuse older sister.

Profile Image for Grace.
246 reviews161 followers
September 27, 2008
I don't recall the last time I've read a fiction book based on classic fairy tales that was this excellent, and I've read many. The tone of this book does indeed feel a lot like the recent works of Patricia McKillip, but Marillier manages to make you care about the characters more (and this is coming from a huge McKillip fan). I don't cry easily at books, but I found myself moved to tears at several points.

The book takes the fairy tale of the 12 Dancing Princesses and sets it in Romania, telling of 5 sisters who journey through a secret portal at Full Moon each month to dance in the Realm of Faerie. Things start to turn when their father has to go away for the winter because of illness, and the oldest daughter falls in love with one of the Night People (vampires, more successfully incorporated into Faerie context than anything else I've read). Add a plot with an outstandingly rendered true soulmate friendship between the lead character and her pet frog, who communicates to her in her mind, and this book was the first book in literally YEARS that I truly couldn't put down at night, and stayed up late to finish. The "villain" of the book as well is a brilliantly rendered character, who you both loathe and feel sorry for at the same time.

I'd love to see Juliet Marillier do more books along the line of classic fairy tale retellings. It suits her so very well. I've heard that she is currently working on the sequel to this book, and I'm elated to hear this news!!!

Even though this book is technically a young adult novel, it is one of the most fascinating and maturely written plots I've read in years, and can be appreciated by fairy tale lovers of all ages.
Profile Image for Sarah.
237 reviews1,114 followers
January 4, 2018
In Wildwood Dancing, Juliet Marillier introduces us to five sisters: sixteen-year-old Tatiana, the team mom; fifteen-year-old Jenica, the practical one; thirteen-year-old Iulia, the budding socialite; twelve-year-old Paula, the intellectual; and five-year-old Stela, who’s cute. They live in a castle, deep in the forests of Transylvania, sometime during the Renaissance. They have little company except their father, two loyal servants, and occasional visits from their relatives.

But every full moon, they follow a secret passage from their bedroom to a magical forest, to join the faeries’ dance. The fae are ruled by a mostly gracious but hot-tempered queen—but even Queen Ileana must answer to the mysterious witch Draguta, whom our five heroines have never seen.

This routine has been going on for years, resulting in many wonderful friendships between the girls and the benevolent wood-people—especially between Jena and her constant companion, the frog Gogu, with whom she has established a telepathic bond. But this year, change is on the wind—and Jena, our narrator, does not like it.

Fasten your seatbelts for what can only be described as Little Women meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Transylvania.

Marillier’s lush descriptive prose draws you so deep into this beautiful, spooky world that you can smell the mustiness of the secret passage, hear the ferrymen’s oars as they cross the enchanted lake, and see the merry torchlight of the dancing lawn and the clear stars above. You can tell from the concreteness of her descriptions that she has walked in these places, or at least places very much like them. This solidness makes the story—which is, like any good fairytale, full of metamorphoses and plot twists—seemed grounded, when it could easily become far-flung and flimsy in the hands of a less-skilled writer.

The Wildwood has many personalities. Ileana’s queendom is, like her, generous but mercurial. The sad, dead patch of forest ruled by the Night People tells you (almost) everything you need to know about them. Then there’s the sisters’ castle, Piscul Draculi, which, like Professor Kirke’s house in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, walks the fine line between cozy and creepy.

The sisters’ routine is disturbed first by the intrusion of the Night People on the Full Moon festivities. Their leader, the charismatic and sardonic Tadeusz, has an uneasy peace with Ileana, but she and her creatures are repulsed by the rumors of bloodshed hovering over him and his, which they do nothing to dispel.

One in Tadeusz’ group is a handsome, melancholy young man who goes by the apt name of Sorrow, who has never so much as opened his mouth during a Full Moon gathering. Sorrow instantly becomes enamored of the kind and beautiful Tatiana, who, much to the alarm of sensible Jena, soon returns his affections. Tati insists that Sorrow is not one of the Night People, despite all appearances. Jena is not convinced.

Back in the mortal world, the girls’ father is far away in the last hope that warmer air will save him. They are looked after by their kindly Uncle Nicholae, fussy Aunt Bogdana, and cousin Cezar, who is becoming increasingly difficult. Everyone knows Cezar has had an unpleasant youth—when he was eight, he witnessed his older brother drown, and even now it seems his parents value dead Costi more than him. Now a young man, he is prone to outbursts of rage and fears of the forest, and is especially unkind to Jena.

They are quickly running out of money with no way to replenish it, and winter is coming.

This brings us back to the Wildwood. Jena is sure the Night People will eventually start taking victims among the villagers. She fears not only for the villagers, but that hot-tempered Cezar and his accomplices might retaliate, catching her innocent faerie friends in the crossfire and probably doing little damage to the perpetrators.

It doesn’t help that dark, powerful Tadeusz himself is attracted to Jena and offers to help out. While she refuses his offer, he senses that she is both frightened of and fascinated by him, and decides to “help” anyway. But he tells her upfront that he will demand compensation for his kindness, and she knows the price will be terrible.

In addition to all these problems, which will affect many lives, Jena grapples with one that (at the moment) seems very small (though it turns out to be as big as any of the others): her dear little frog, her best friend since she was little, Gogu, has suddenly become moody and secretive. Occasionally he says strange things, about emotions that frogs usually don’t have or facts that he particularly could not have known.

Suffice that poor Jena has more responsibilities riding on her than a fifteen-year-old should. Who will help her? Ileana and her husband, Marin? Draguta, who has never shown herself at a Full Moon dance and may have no sympathy for a human? Or Tadeusz, who clearly acts upon his own ulterior motives?

As deaths, including her uncle’s, begin piling up among both the villagers and the forest-dwellers, Jena’s choice becomes very important indeed.

There’s quite a bit of Lizzy Bennet and Jo March in Jena, our protagonist. Lively and a bit sarcastic, she thinks she knows more than her gentle, romantic older sister, and is the boss in the absence of parents. She’s smart enough to know that her frog, Gogu, must really be a man in an enchanted form, but too oblivious to notice that he’s in love with her. I appreciated that she starts the book with frizzy hair and a flat chest, and she ends the book with frizzy hair and a flat chest, and plenty of men are still attracted to her.

Of the other four sisters, Tati is the most developed. Like Jane Bennet or Meg March, she’s the prettiest sister, and the kindest. She thinks the best of others even when she has every reason to be suspicious of them. Her soft heart immediately gives itself to Sorrow, a captive of the Night People. When Sorrow is in danger, Tati’s empathetic bond with him begins to drain her, to the point where people in the village think she’s either starving herself or turning into a Night Person. She has a close, tight relationship with Jena and is a good influence on her.

The younger girls are not as fleshed out, but their personalities are still distinct and bounce off each other nicely. Iulia is a Kitty Bennet or a less-obnoxious Amy March—she just wants a social life, some pretty dresses, and in time a handful of suitors.

Paula is an uptight little scholar who spends dance nights wrangling magical lore from wizards and mages, but she’s also the most level-headed girl in the group, who can take care of little Stela when the others are too busy being confused by boys. Think Mary Bennet, only useful and without the tone-deaf singing.

Stela is the only sister without an obvious Austen or Alcott analogue. At five years old, she doesn’t have much personality except being a cute, good-tempered child who doesn’t understand all the scary changes going on around her and clings to her adorable faerie friends for comfort.

Gogu/Costi is a swoon-worthy male lead, and not just for his aristocratic profile and beautiful emerald eyes. As a frog, he can be snide and funny, or mysteriously sad. As a man, he’s the soul of kindness, loving Jena from afar even when she has lashed out at him out of fear. He’s quiet and gentle and takes nothing for granted. He’s a bigger man than his brother without ever raising a hand to him, and it’s implied that after the book ends, he will become a respected leader in the community. Not as dastardly clever as Eugenides (The Thief, The Queen of Attolia) Howl ( Howl's Moving Castle ), or Vidanric (Crown Duel, Court Duel), but just as romantic and strong. He’s earned his spot in my Heroic Heartthrob Hall of Fame.

Sorrow has also earned a spot in the HHHF, even though he never speaks until the climax, for his risking his life on a near-suicidal quest to earn his sister’s ransom from the Night People. He redeems himself a thousand times over for any superficial resemblance he may bear to Edward Cullen. Also, he is not actually a vampire. Yay.

Tadeusz is a perfect vampire—proud, secretive, sultry, cool-headed, and Machiavellian. His wooing of Jena is portrayed exactly how it should be: intriguing, but never safe or good. On the surface, he can be flippant and selfish, even sadistic—but it is implied near the end (by Draguta, who would know) that there’s still a spark of good in him, and that he actually loves Jena in his fashion. Suffice that he works as either a pure villain or a tortured soul who yearns for goodness and light but is afraid to accept them.

Cezar starts out an insecure boy in a desperate rage to prove himself a man, and over the course of the novel it consumes him.

Draguta, the witch of the wood, is a laugh riot while at the same time being quite spooky. More than anyone else, she personifies the whimsy, both light and dark, that characterizes this novel.

Content Advisory for Teachers, Librarians, Parents, and Sensitive Kids
Violence: Uncle Nicholae is felled by a crossbow bolt to the chest in a hunting accident. He bleeds out on Cezar, who in his daze of grief leaves a trail of blood dripping from his garments all over the house.

When Tadeusz and his friends help Jena by mending the manor fence (even though she told them it was unnecessary), they compensate themselves by draining the blood from a village girl, who does not survive the ordeal. Her death is not shown.

This motivates Cezar and the other men of the village to scour the woods for the Night People, but Tadeusz and company are far too crafty for them. But Cezar does manage to capture an innocent dwarf—one of Ileana’s folk who has nothing to do with the vampires—tortures him (ostensibly for information), and murders him. The death of the dwarf, Anatolie, is not shown, but he was a friend of the sisters’.

The Night People enjoy torturing those who wander into their realm uninvited. When Tati and Jena foolishly accept Tadeusz’ invitation there, they witness vampires forcing an exhausted man to dance, and throwing sharp objects at a woman caught in a big bag like a cat.

A drunken Cezar hits Jena when she rejects his advances. When sober, he threatens her, her sisters, and their servants. He tries to throttle Costi.

Sex: Tadeusz is a sensual creature, and though his interactions with Jena are chaste, it is clear that he would like that to change eventually. He runs a fingertip down her neck at one point, causing Gogu to hop on him.

Cezar gets drunk at a party and pins Jena against the wall, forcing a kiss on her and attempting to molest her. Disgusted, she fights him off, and he strikes her.

At this same party, Iulia, who’s only thirteen but has the figure of an older girl, shows up in a low-cut gown, hoping to look like a grown-up. Before Jena can loan her a shawl or scarf, Cezar yells at Iulia, humiliating her in front of everyone.

Costi is nearly naked when he is unexpectedly returned to his human form.

Sorrow and Tati exchange what Hobbes (the tiger, not the guy who wrote Leviathan) would term “muchas smoochies”, but given the time period and what good kids they are, it’s unlikely that they did anything more.

Substance Abuse: People drink at a party—none of the main characters to the point of drunkenness save Cezar. This story takes place long before age limits were extant (or needed) on alcohol.

Possible Religious Conflict: Tadeusz says that crucifixes and garlic can’t keep his kind out, and the house of the girl they killed was said to be well-protected. However, Jena never witnesses this for herself, and Tadeusz may well have been bluffing.

Yet the Church isn't portrayed as useless here. Father Sandu, Paula’s tutor, who doesn’t even have any lines, is shown to be a wise, gentle man. He tutors a girl at a time when that was considered foolish at best and possibly subversive. Cezar stupidly banishes him from the village after the vampire attack, after which the situation gets steadily worse.

Language: None.

Wildwood Dancing hooks you with its glorious prose, makes you root for its characters, and pulls you so deep in that when a familiar fairytale plot twist occurs, you’re just as shocked as the characters are. The chapters are long and languidly paced, but if you’re like me, you won’t be able to put it down.

Finally, I hope they never change the cover art for this one. Kinuko Craft’s painting isn’t just gorgeous, but it’s full of details from the book that you won’t notice until you’ve read the whole thing.

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Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,071 reviews2,633 followers
April 29, 2016
3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2016/04/29/...

After finishing Wildwood Dancing, I’ve decided to give it a solid 3.5 stars. Considering this is my
first Juliet Marillier book that didn’t rate at least a 4, I probably should be feeling more disappointed, especially since, out of all her older titles, this was one I’d been looking forward to reading the most. But honestly, I am not. The reality is, while I’m pretty convinced that Marillier is incapable of writing a bad novel, I also wouldn’t expect to fall in love with every single one of them, and even though I didn’t think this was one of her best, I still thought it was a very good book and I enjoyed it a lot.

Naturally, Wildwood Dancing is a reimagining of several fairy tales and other stories inspired by folklore. It’s a Marillier novel, after all. In the tradition of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”, the story follows a family of five sisters who put on their fine dancing gowns every full moon in order to travel to another realm, where they would dance all night with the magical creatures who live there. Only the five girls know how to get to this enchanted kingdom through the mysterious portal hidden deep in their home of Piscul Draculi, their castle nestled in the woods of the Transylvanian highlands.

The story is told through the eyes of Jena, the second eldest, who assumes the responsibility of looking after her sisters and running the family business after their father is taken to the southlands to recover from a grave illness. But everything changes with the arrival of their cousin Cezar, a power-hungry man determined to take over the castle and see Jena and her sisters grow up to be “proper” young ladies. His presence has made the girls’ full moon visits through the portal more difficult, and it doesn’t help either that Tatiana, Jena’s older sister, has apparently fallen in love with one of the dangerous dark creatures from the Other Kingdom. As trouble descends on all sides, Jena struggles to keep her family together and maintain her control over Piscul Draculi, even while Cezar tightens his grip around them all and Tatiana continues to slip away.

I should also probably note that Wildwood Dancing is categorized as a YA novel, and it’s possible that some of my issues with the book had to do with the fact it’s aimed at a younger audience. In spite of the story’s charming premise, it’s admittedly predictable at times and hampered by some annoying tropes. Not to mention, they aren’t very subtle. The moment Cezar sweeps in, you could tell he was the evil, evil bad guy, pumped up on his own self-importance and never misses a moment to tell Jena what a silly and improper girl she is for daring to think for herself. There is really nothing more to his character than being teeth grindingly obnoxious and soul-crushing. Tatiana also frustrated me, because while it’s all fine and good to fall in love, it’s not so cool when that love completely consumes you to the point you throw aside the concerns of those who care about you, or that you abandon all your responsibilities including the need to take care of yourself. Tatiana gradually becomes this empty shell because we’re to believe she’s so lovesick after a boy that she loses the will to eat. As the main character, Jena is not immune from criticism either; where her emotions are concerned, she has more blind spots than a drunk bat and I frequently found her stubbornness maddening. For a female protag who is supposed to be strong and independent, she can be stunningly ineffectual.

The characters were probably the novel’s weakest aspect. Happily, predictable or not, I was really interested in the story, and that kept me turning the pages. The Transylvanian setting was intriguing, along with all that it implies. I also liked how snippets of multiple fairy tales were woven into the plot, and the way Marillier somehow made it all work. Like most of her novels, Wildwood Dancing is infused with a whimsical but dark tone, enchanting but also potentially dangerous, and to be sure if you enjoy fairy tale retellings or stories with that kind of vibe, you really can’t go wrong with anything she writes.

Ever since I read my first Juliet Marillier novel and she became one of my favorite authors, I have been meaning to go back to read more of her work. I’m glad I read Wildwood Dancing, but given how I felt about it, I’ll probably set the sequel, Cybele’s Secret, as lower priority while I tackle some of her other adult novels since I find them to be more complex and feature more developed and convincing characters. Still, Wildwood Dancing was a delightful read and it is impressive for YA. Fans of Marillier owe it to themselves to check this one out.
Profile Image for Sofia.
176 reviews28 followers
November 12, 2012
I can't say I really liked it, it's more of a 2,5 stars situation.

I had some issues with the characters. To be honest, I can't say there was a single one that I actually liked.

First off: Cezar, the main antagonist. He seems like a mere checklist of odious qualities, with no personality to back him up. An odious villain is a thing of beauty, but it needs a little something to give him substance instead of just "because of evilness". For example, Ken Follet's World Without End has an antagonist with the same characteristics: power-hungry, petty, jealous, and a bully. However, he he has a personality to define him, and a purpose to his existence. Whenever a villain like that shows up on a page, you eagerly read what evil shanenigans he is up to. When Cezar showed up, I just groaned.

(On an additional note: if your character acts as a bully, we get it that he is a bully. There is no need for the other characters to remark on it constantly. Or maybe find another adjective, because between that and this review, I'm officially saturated of the word "bully".)

Next: the hero and protagonist, Jena. Oh, Jena. So here's a very capable young woman who is educated and has harnassed the power of math (as we are told) and then is made powerless by... some... rude words? Cezar forcefully takes off with control of her house's finances and the only thing she does is meekly protest and mope and drop the issue? How about if you went immediatly to his mother, your aunt, to complain, you twit? Make a scene as he is trying to leave the house with your family's money? Scream at him, do the Kermit arm flail, just geez, lady, anything would be better than just watching him leave. Where's your supposed chutzpah? AND THEN HE DOES THE SAME THING AGAIN with her father's merch and she only sort of protests and then goes back to organizing a ball. A FREAKING BALL, JENA.
Jena is also a very caring person, and worries that her elderly caretaker, Petru, his having a very hard time fixing a fence all by himself when she can't afford to hire him some help. Then, with that very valid worry in her heart, SHE SPENDS A DAY SEWING A DRESS. Gee, I don't know, help him, maybe? You were progressively educated, he's an old man, maybe you could pick up a hammer? Hand him the freaking boards? Fetch him some wire? Take him lunch while he's out in the cold of winter? Goddammit Jena.

Also: sister Tati. Who stops eating because... love? She doesn't eat because she can only see her loved one once a month or something; why doesn't anyone tell her that if she dies she won't see him at all? And honestly, this nonsense goes on for months and NO-ONE SAYS ANYTHING. Seriously. There are some side comments, but nobody actually tells her "you know, you should eat something, you ninny.". So much for the supposed close-knit sisterhood. The only thing anyone does about it is organizing a ball to... see if she falls in love with someone else and snaps out of it? Goddammit Jena, you and your stupid ideas again.

(While we're on the subject of her eating disorder, how is it that someone who is already thin can go by for months with just a few "nibbles of food and morsels of bread" and the only consequence is getting emanciated? This girl lives in a castle, has chores and goes up and down staircases, shouldn't she have a few fainting spells? But no, she only faints once, two months into her anorexia, at the most dramatically convenient occasion. Of course.)

And I can't get over the fact that everyone has perfectly reasonable eastern-european names and then there's a guy named Sorrow. With a sister named Silence. I mean, for crying out loud, even the vampires have normal names, why do these two are named after frontmen of some horrible screamo band?

The rest is just ok. I did like the mixing of fairytales and romanian folklore, and I just wish that the plot was more focused on that and the Other World than on this group of twits. Gogu the pet frog was cool though. But that's only because frogs are awesome. Oh, and Stella, because she's five and makes flower chains with faery people. She's cool too.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,404 reviews11.7k followers
November 5, 2010
Not sure how to rate this. Somewhere around 3.5 stars rounded up to generous 4 I guess?

I really do like Juliet Marillier's writing, even though it always takes me a while to get into any of her books. I like how descriptive and atmospheric her stories are. Wildwood Dancing offers an interesting blend of traditional fairy tales (The Twelve Dancing Princesses and The Frog Prince) and Transylvanian vampire lore. The characters are likable - the heroines are strong and resourceful, the heroes valiant and loving, the villains sufficiently despicable. And of course, there is always LOVE, a sweet and touching type of love.

I am starting to see a bit of a pattern in Marillier's books though. The story here is basically the same as I've read in her first 2 Sevenwaters books - the same cast of characters - a self-sufficient heroine, a suddenly weakened father, loving siblings, fairies, a family member villain, etc. The main conflict always has something to do with fairy games and the human villain trying to force himself on the heroine.

This particular story is also a little bit convoluted and muddy. I never got the clear picture what happened and why. Jena and her sisters, when her father is absent, start experiencing troubles in both fairy realm and real world. Then these difficulties are all resolves, but interestingly enough, without any kind of effort on the sisters' part. Basically, a witch messed with them all and then all her spells are gone. All that the sisters need to do is endure and wait for changes to come. It's just weird.

And then some actions by the main character - Jena - are strange too. I often didn't understand why exactly she did certain things. For example, her sexist pig cousin tries to take away the authority Jena has over her household and her father's business' finances, and all she does is argue with him without actually exercising the power she has to stop him. And it happens on several occasions. So, you see, she is pretty much all talk no game. It is frustrating. And then the way she reacts to her best friend's transformation doesn't make sense either.

Now, looking over my review, I think I am going to downgrade my rating to 3 stars. I am, however, still very much interested in reading the sequel - Cybele's Secret.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 28 books5,675 followers
March 2, 2008
This was an amazing book. She weaves together several classical stories: the Twelve Dancing Princesses, Transylvanian vampire lore, and others (I wouldn't want to give any twists away by saying which ones), and does so seamlessly and without a feeling that she's cramming it all in. The characters were great, and I truly enjoyed seeing what twists and turns the story took. There were villains both in the "ordinary" world, and in the fairy kingdom, but also champions and sympathizers, often from unexpected places. I really liked that. The only reason why this doesn't get five stars is because I wanted a big showdown with the real world villain, and while he was confronted, I kept waiting for Jena to give him a piece of her mind and she never did. In fact, for a clever, opinionated girl, she was frustratingly lacking in good comebacks for this guy. I had a million and one things I wanted to shout at him, but she apparently didn't. Sigh. Still, the book was RIVETING.
Profile Image for Cristin.
105 reviews205 followers
August 3, 2008
This is another pleasant book for young adult readers who are interested in fantasy...(can you sense an impending "however"?)

At times, HOWEVER, I resented the editor, because it seemed like the arguments between Cezar and Jena acted as filler pages that prevented the story from moving forward.

I also disliked the fact that it was nearly impossible to become attached to any of the sisters (besides Jena, who is the main character)though such an attachment or personal investment (on the reader's part) is the effect the author wanted to produce. There just didn't seem to be enough time to create substantial character development for each sister...They were merely good spices thrown into the pot; they added flavor to the meat that was Jena's story...

Like so many of this genre, I'm sure it would have been best enjoyed prior to entering this callous, skeptical world of pseudo-adulthood. I suppose I've become a cantankerous, all-too-serious old woman, despite the fact that I'm still in my early twenties...I'm reading about fairies, for chrissake! What do I expect?

I'm being unnecessarily critical; it was a charming, young story--I liked Gogu's character very much and Jena did make an interesting main character; I wished the utmost happiness for her while I read her story, and will remember her fondly.

This book is excellent for a couple of stormy summer nights--it's a fast and easy, enjoyable read.

*Also, I must give Marillier some serious props for being inspired by the "12 Dancing Princesses"--she added a very cool interpretation of it and obviously loved researching Transylvanian culture, which I really appreciated.

Profile Image for Marquise.
1,746 reviews607 followers
February 7, 2017
One of the best fairy tale mashups I've ever read, and I'm very choosy about retellings so I don't get to say this often. I appreciated most of all how Marillier managed to mix two major fairy tales, The Twelve Dancing Princesses and The Frog Prince, with elements from Eastern European folklore like Baba Yaga (here in the character of the powerful wood witch Draguta) and legends involving vampires native from the setting, 16th century Transylvania.

The latter was the element that had me doubting before starting this book, because I am not in the least interested in anything related to vampires, classic or modern, and that includes Stoker's version. And previous to this one, I had a mixed experience with Marillier. But I opted for the blindfolded leap of faith, and it paid off. The vampiric lore is largely just one element in the story, and it's not even told in the traditional way, so it was refreshing and easy to absorb for those like me who don't care for this type of paranormal stories. Marillier kept the essence of the original folktales as well, despite the twists and the introduction of culturally different elements, and although the story has only one narrator, and that in first person at that, the five sisters are different and well-fleshed, save for perhaps the youngest for reasons of age more than anything, though I'd say this is one of those books to be loved for the story and the prose more than for the characters.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,322 reviews2,142 followers
August 15, 2015
This was my second try at reading a book by this author and again I was only moderately impressed. She does write well but this particular book seemed repetitive and went on a bit too long. I did enjoy the characters especially the frog (which will sound strange if you haven't read the book yet) and the sisters although Tati was seriously disturbed. The story was very predictable (especially the frog). Three stars because I did read the book to the end so I must have enjoyed some of it.:)
Profile Image for A.G. Howard.
Author 16 books8,760 followers
April 8, 2015
Perfection. I want to live in all of Ms. Marillier's worlds. <3
Profile Image for Francesca.
283 reviews296 followers
September 1, 2023
Mah, sapete, il solito. Ho pianto, ho riso, un’altra meravigliosa storia della Marillier che parla di crescita, di accettazione del cambiamento, di sacrifici, sorellanza, indipendenza, speranza e vero amore. Solo altre 5 stelline silurate con facilità. Niente di che.

Wildwood Dancing è il primo libro di una dilogia, ma il secondo ha come protagonista un altro personaggio, quindi si può leggere tranquillamente come autoconclusivo. È ambientato nella Romania del 1600, ed è un retelling della fiaba delle dodici principesse danzanti. Seguiamo infatti le vicende di cinque sorelle (la Marillier ha deciso di essere più clemente con quella povera madre), che da anni ormai, a ogni luna piena, usano un passaggio segreto che, dal loro castello, le trasporta in un mondo nascosto e incantato. La loro pace verrà disturbata da un malvagio cugino e dall’arrivo nella foresta incantata di un misterioso “popolo della notte”…

Alla base, come al solito per i libri della Marillier, abbiamo un’atmosfera magica, surreale. È una storia che prende ispirazione da numerossisime fiabe e leggende, che insieme funzionano a meraviglia. Tropi come la “quest”, gli oggetti magici, le prove, sono tutti rielaborati e utilizzati in un modo che ha perfettamente senso per una storia come questa, che è allo stesso tempo moderna e dal sapore classico.

Per me, il vero colpo di genio in questo libro è stato scegliere Jena come protagonista, la secondogenita. Seguiamo Jena nel disperato tentativo di non farsi venire un esaurimento nervoso, mentre deve gestire: il cugino melmoso dal tono paternalistico; un castello che va a pezzi; l’inverno della Transilvania; la sorella maggiore in preda ai bollori perché ha conosciuto un vampirello. Immaginatevi avere come sorella maggiore Bella Swan. Ecco. Essendo personalmente molto simile a Jena in certi aspetti, è come se avessi compiuto il suo viaggio di realizzazione insieme a lei. Ovviamente non farò spoiler, ma il suo percorso di accettazione del cambiamento e del fatto che non potrà mai controllare tutto l’ho trovato perfettamente realizzato.

La parte romantica (che, come in tutte le storie della Marillier, è in secondo piano rispetto all crescita individuale), era l’unico elemento che mi faceva storcere il naso. Non per come progredisce, non per mancanza di chimica o per come si trattano, no…era tutto perfetto, a parte per un minuscolo dettaglio. Un dettaglio che poteva essere tranquillamente evitato, che non ha nessun peso all’interno della storia. Ma allora, perché? Dopo una prima fase di incredulità (per un po’ non sono riuscita a riprendere il libro in mano), dopo aver notato che non ne parlava NESSUNO nelle recensioni, ho tirato un sospirone e sono andata avanti. È un dettaglio talmente messo in secondo piano nella storia che è facile dimenticarsene, ma comunque esiste, e ogni tanto mi torna in mente. Continuerò a far finta di niente. Anche perché per il resto è una relazione estremamente dolce e romantica, fatta di fiducia e amicizia. Da questo punto di vista, so che la Marillier non puoi deludermi.

In conclusione: un altro certified classic.
Profile Image for Vinaya.
185 reviews2,090 followers
July 21, 2015
I never thought I'd say this about a Juliet Marillier book, but... WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?!!!

I love Juliet Marillier. Love her with the burning passion of a thousand suns. She's one of my go-to authors, the rare few I can count on to not let me down. Except, apparently, when it came to writing Wildwood Dancing. There's a bunch of stuff I liked in this book, number one being Gogu. Best frog-prince ever. EVER. Also, Juliet Marillier is generally a master at evoking exactly the emotion she wants in her readers. I was wonderfully frustrated by Cousin Cezar's high-handed ways and Jena's helplessness in the face of his masculine dominance. I wanted to strangle him with my own two hands when he spouted off about the stupidity and helplessness of women. I was angry right alongside the frog-prince when Jena abandoned him and refused to believe in him. Jena herself was okay, I guess. I have mostly lukewarm feelings about her because I feel like she didn't actually do much in the book, and wasn't anywhere near as kick-ass as Neryn (from Shadowfell, which was everything a Marillier book ought to be, as usually is).

What really, really ruined this book for me was Tati. Jena's eldest sister was THE poster-child for mentally unbalanced moron. Apparently falling in love gave her a severe case of anorexia nervosa and she had to be banished to a rehab centre far away from her sisters in order to keep her insanity from rubbing off on them (reading between the lines, of course). This entire fracking storyline ruined what could have been a great book. Love at first sight, I can digest, love at first sight with a possible-vampire, I can digest, love at first sight with a possible-vampire that leads you to make stupid decisions that put your sister at risk, I can maybeperhapsjustabout digest. BUT. When your devotion to your true love is of the sort that, when he is sent on a nearly-impossible quest to earn the right to be with you, you decide the best way to handle the situation is to stop eating, put your entire family through hell, decide preemptively that your lover is doomed to failure and practise death-by-starvation so that, when the wounded, faithful love of your life comes to get you, instead of greeting him with a smile and a demonstration of your trust in his abilities, you are lying insensible on a pallet, forcing your family through more dangerous maneuvers and almost causing your love to lose the quest altogether. Bah. This girl makes those insipid YA heroines look positively lion-like!

Also, who didn't already know that Gogu was ? (Just in case someone didn't I put it under a spoiler tag. I neeeeds a book with some shock-inducing twists; these predictable books are getting to me. Somebody please recommend!
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 150 books37.5k followers
October 18, 2008
This combines several fairy tale tropes with a beautifully realized Eastern European setting. The main character is Jena, a strong, sensible heroine who still long for romance and Otherness. She has to balance her own wishes and desires against what's good for her family and land.

The oldest sister is a tad drippy for an adult reader, but I think I would have found her soggy wasting away intensely romantic when I was young. The main fairy tale is also recognizable early on for the adult reader, but I know without a doubt I would have been just thrilled to recognize it gradually as a young reader, and then watch to see how expertly Marillier twisted it to make it exciting and not quite predictable.

I do think that there are a lot of supposedly YA books put out now that appeal more to adults. I am not talking about content. Teens are aware of different aspects of life at different ages, and so I have no quarrel with the more mature subjects. But some books seem to require reading protocols way ahead of the young reader, or have complex issues, or oblique references, that really seem adult. This one I think can be loved by the genuine twelve year old, as well as those of us who still remember being twelve.
Profile Image for Sarah.
8 reviews
December 29, 2015
I don't know why but I couldn't quite get into this book.
There were good things and bad things about Wildwood Dancing. I'll list the bad first
-Beginning seemed to drag on
-There wasn't enough of the Dancing Glade. I mean, I understand that most of the story had to be set in the real world to make it work but there just didn't seem to be enough fantasy.
-Jena never shut up about her responsibility. All she ever did was whine and whine and whine. I wanted to punch her by the end of the book.
-Tati was pathetic. She fell apart every second she was away from Sorrow, she needed him to eat and breathe, pretty much.. It was disgraceful and a horrid example of 'love'.
-The other sisters deserved more of a story, to be honest. I wanted to know more about them.
-There wasn't enough Gogu. He had a small sentence here and there. I felt like he should have said more as her closest friend and someone who sat on her shoulder 24/7

-Tati left in the end. Haha can you tell I can't stand her?
-Jena got Costi in the end... I loved that she could be happy and Costi finally got what he wanted after being cheated out of it so many years before...

Ehhh. I haven't finished this review but I will later......
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for aphrodite.
413 reviews866 followers
July 20, 2020
a cottagecore lover’s dream complete with faeries, a mythical forest, and fairytales

if only incest didn’t exist
Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,161 reviews1,256 followers
April 7, 2011
Wildwood Dancing is a pleasant and entertaining read. It kept me up late at least once. The storyline is fairy tale-inspired: five sisters use a magic portal to pass into the Otherworld every full moon night. But while their father is ill, their domineering cousin Cezar begins to take over, and he plans to cut down the forest and slaughter its mystical denizens to avenge a dead brother. Throw in some vampires and an enchanted frog, and there's more than enough story for 400 pages. If it sounds a little cutesy, or heavy on the fantasy elements.... well, it is, more so than any other Marillier book I've read (and I've read almost all of them). There were moments that, in my mind, crossed the line from cute into just plain corny, but every reader has a different tolerance there.

Even for adult readers there's plenty to enjoy here, although if you haven't read any of Marillier's books yet, I'd recommend trying one of her adult ones first, preferably Daughter of the Forest. I liked the setting--Transylvania, it's different and exotic--and while the geographic scope of the book is quite small (the girls rarely ever leave their own estate and its surrounding forest) the setting felt well fleshed-out. The character development is decent but not exceptional, and the plot moves along briskly.

Now the problems. First, the male lead. Marillier's trying to weave in multiple fairy tales here, but an inherent problem with a "Frog Prince" is that the romantic hero has to appear as a frog. In this case, he spends most of the book as the heroine's pet: weak, childish, and stealing people's food. It didn't work for me, at all, and although I usually appreciate the way this author writes romance, this character was way too emasculated to be remotely attractive.

The thematics are a thornier issue. There are a lot of "character filibusters": the sisters give lectures on why women are capable, why people must respect nature, etc. This is lazy writing; readers should be given more credit. But it's not only that: since Marillier's opened the door by trying to "teach" young readers, let's look at what this book is actually saying. Despite the feminist rhetoric, the five sisters need a man to solve their problems. We're supposed to be outraged when the sexist Cezar takes over the family finances, but the sad truth is that he's far more responsible with them than the supposedly capable heroine. And once Cezar has tightened his grip on the household, the girls never reassert control; they require another man to go over Cezar's head.

Then there's the view of romance. Two of the sisters fall in love with men they have reason to believe are dangerous. Lip service is paid to caution, but in reality its advocates turn out to be wrong, since True Love is Always Right. Marillier misses an opportunity to distinguish healthy love from a dangerous infatuation with a sexual predator (the latter situation doesn't happen in any of her books, which I suppose is one reason they're fantasy; still, the implications seemed especially unfortunate here). Giving up everything for the person you love is presented as romantic, and one of the sisters literally starves herself because she doesn't get to see her boyfriend every day--and it's not presented as stupid or melodramatic. Now, I don't believe for a minute that young girls are going to emulate these behaviors simply because they encountered them in Wildwood Dancing, but for an author who's trying to convey a message, the one she actually sends isn't particularly uplifting.

I probably will read the sequel, because I was entertained by this book and because I generally like this author's work. Still, this isn't her best, and for a young adult book, the "moral" of this fairy tale is rather less than wholesome.
Profile Image for Kay.
197 reviews373 followers
January 2, 2012
Hm, this one is tough to rate. Higher than three stars, but definitely not round-upable to four. So I guess 3.25 stars?

As always Juliet Marillier's prose is lovely and atmospheric. A retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses and The Frog Prince, the story is set in Transylvania and told from the perspective of Jena, the second eldest sister out of five, all of whom visit the fairy realm through a secret passageway in their bedroom.

When their ill father leaves Jena and her sisters for the winter, Jena is left in charge of the holding. However, though capable and independent, Jena and her sisters run into trouble when their cousin attempts to take over the household's affairs in their father's absence. On top of that, the eldest sister Tati falls deeply in love with a man of the fairy realm in the midst of a brewing war between humans and fae.

The plot and setting were very unique. I'm impressed at how Juliet Marillier can weave so many different fairy tales and folklore into one story. The witch of the wood reminded of Baba Yaga, albeit much less antagonistic and without the house on chicken legs. The fairy realm and the cool, immortal fae that inhabit it had a distinct Sevenwaters feel. And the frog, well, while you may not expect it, the revelation of Gogu's past isn’t much as a surprise in hindsight.

But while these different elements were enjoyable, I found the plot unclear and the resolution of conflicts very deus ex machina. Jena, despite her effort to control the situation, is not the main mover of the story. From dealing with her infuriatingly sexist cousin Cezar to trying to pull her sister out of heartsickness, Jena is pulled from one situation to the next by the whims of others. She talks about independence and justice, but she does not seem capable of enacting her beliefs.

A common theme in Juliet Marillier's book, at least the three I've read, is that a strain of feminist independence is always contrasted against masculine dominance. Not surprising, since such political and societal inequalities were ingrained in many historical societies. In Wildwood Dancing, however, this gender inequality isn't a part of society, as it may have been, but is rather starkly illustrated only by Cezar's overbearing and infuriating masculinity. Cezar was a great villain in how he slowly exerted his control over the household, but if that's the case, I would like a strong protagonist who can fight it. Jena seemed too weak to be his foil. She passively allowed such encroachment, which made me skip a few chapters ahead to avoid the domestic drama.

Also, most of the issues in this story were resolved by outside forces, particularly Cezar's encroachment on Jena's holdings and Tati's heartsickness. This just seemed to happen after a period of time, and all Jena had to do was wait and watch.

Overall, a decent read and worth it, though the story falls below that of the Sevenwaters series.

In sum, 3.25 stars.
Profile Image for Chloe (thelastcolour).
413 reviews134 followers
August 14, 2017
“If a man has to say trust me, Gogu conveyed, it's a sure sign you cannot. Trust him, that is. Trust is a thing you know without words.”

I had heard from a few people that Marillier’s writing was a thing of beauty. Thus, my expectations for this book increased and, needless to say, I was not left disappointed. The world building was remarkable, the friendship’s created and the folklore, everything was beautiful and to be cherished. When one hears of Transylvania, one thinks of vampires but there was so much more to this part of the world, legends and folklore that Marillier, too, wanted to bring to light.
I came to this story for the faeries and the darkness that surrounded them was everything that I desired. Faeries aren’t just those one sees in Peter Pan, they’re selfish and feared and always look out for themselves. The portrayal in this book was excellent, the faerie queen was beautiful and deadly and respected. But there was an innocence as well. The story is told from the perspective of Jena, the second oldest of five sisters who all live at Piscul Dracului (don’t worry, there is a pronunciation guide at the back of the book!) with their sick father and no mother. The five sisters are very close and every full moon they travel through a portal to the other world to spend the night dancing with dwarves and trolls and other magical creatures. Jena is stubborn and intelligent and her best friend is her pet frog, Gogu, whom she trusts with everything.
There are multiple plot twists in this story, some I was able to predict but then Marillier still managed to surprise me! After a while, I became fully immersed into Jena’s world, so much so that reality slipped away and I knew that this book deserved a high rating, it had been so long since a book had had that effect on me.
There are dresses as delicate as butterflies, old castles and secret passages, the full moon showering the world in her silver light. There’s an old witch, those who wander with garlic in their pockets to ward off evil, there’s dancing until the stars disappear and the watery dawn light washes across the land. There’s a longing for love, secrets whispered in the woods, in the dead of night, beneath the stars. There’s an abundance of flowers and suffocating darkness. It’s the difficulties of being a women, the struggle for freedom, of being told what to do, who to be, what to wear. There’s billowing dresses, the feeling of silk against skin, the knowledge that you are beautiful. It’s boat rides across lakes, the rolling mist, the long shadows and strange sounds in the heart of the night. There’s music and nature and mirrors never to be trusted.
Please, please read this book. You won't regret it, I promise <3
Profile Image for Brittany McCann.
1,821 reviews427 followers
August 6, 2023
This one starts beautifully and then gets tedious, slow-moving, and repetitive. I love the whimsy, but it would have been better suited to a middle-grade audience and lost the young adult content. I think it would have shone there.

Juliet Marillier, as with other books I have experienced by her, is magnificent at creating the setting's feeling. The characters were fairly well-defined, but the problem was rather with the subplots that were supposed to add to the overall plot.

The subplots were flawed and lost me. There was a lot of frustration in the ancillary characters, who sometimes felt somewhat ill-defined. I can even understand the women being afraid to fight anything in the time period. Unfortunately, constantly reading about it became rather tedious.

Gogu, the frog, is the best character in the entire book. I was not a fan of Sorrow, Cezar, and Tati, but I did love Jena and Gogu the frog... which sounds like Grogu.....I do see that the next book in the series follows different characters with the same setting, so perhaps that would be a better novel telling of this wondrous location.

Like, but far from love. 3 Stars
Profile Image for Bookphenomena (Micky) .
2,495 reviews405 followers
February 5, 2023
A flavour of retellings
Dancing sisters
Other folk of many types

Marillier knows how to craft an interesting world to invest the reader from the start. In this duology starter, I found myself in the Transylvanian mountains of Romania, somewhere I've never been in fiction before; so fresh. This story had the flavour of some fairytales but set in it's own unique way, one of the influences was the twelve dancing princesses (but there weren't twelve).

In no surprise to any Marillier fan, the other folk and their world collided with those of the protagonist Jena and antagonist Cezar. Cezar, (deep sigh) was vile in an exponential way as the story developed. Expect to feel shades of patriarchy, misogyny and control. There were many parts of this story with Cezar that enraged me. That said, many of the men in this story were empowering towards women.

Jena and her sisters were a colourful bunch. By the end, I really wanted a Tati story, more of what happened to her in this story and the afterwards, I'm all curious about her life afterwards. Gogu was a great character and although Hollis and I guessed much about this character, the reading of it was still entertaining.

In the other world we met a lot of different folk, dissimilar to her sevenwaters fair folk. The night people were illusively intriguing, I loved the brief pictures and connections between the sisters and Anatoli, Sten and othe dancing partners.

The romp to the end was predictable in some ways and less so in others but it didn't hamper my enjoyment. I'm looking forward to the next book (and hoping my buddy is on board for this soon) and wishing already that there were more than two books in this series.

Find this review at A Take From Two Cities Blog.
Profile Image for Amy.
2,628 reviews414 followers
March 18, 2011
Picture an old guy. He coughs. Grunts. Wriggles in his chair and glares suspiciously around...
That is how I felt about this book.
I know, it is a weird analogy (nothing compared to some of the other stuff I've come up with xD) but it was the image I kept coming back to as I read Wildwood Dancing . What follows might end up just being a ramble...because I'm still "chewing" on the book. Which means that some this will end up having SPOILERS. Nothing big (I hope xD) but....
Jena is the second oldest of five sisters living in (or near?) Transylvania. Every full moon they pass to a Fairy Land where they dance through the night, and return home. Until one day, some "Night People" (aka vampires) show up as guests of the Fairy Queen at the dance...and the eldest sister falls in love with one of them. Jena is faced with a battle on two fronts, trying to keep her elder sister away from her pale lover and her male cousin from taking over their home. At least she can rely on her pet frog...
A combination of Twelve Dancing Princesses, and some vampire lore, the thing that kept me reading Wildwood Dancing wasn't the writing (not bad, not striking), wasn't the character (a bunch of whiners), wasn't really even boredom...but the way the various fairy-tales were woven together. It was awfully predictable. But I was also caught in the spell of the plot, and I desperately wanted to know what was going to happen.
And that is why I can't simply rate this book and move on.
From a critical standpoint, I disliked most things about the book. I have no idea if this book was written pre-Twilight, but Twilight has ruined vampires. And even if it hadn't....well, I just didn't like them. I disliked their characters and their attitudes
The eldest sister was...obnoxious. I mean, she "falls in love" and promptly becomes useless, pines away, and nearly ends up ruining it for everyone.
Jena....hmmm. I liked her at first. She starts off as rather gutsy and strong, oblivious to her charms (xD) and smart. But as the book progresses....she just becomes more and more of a wreck. By the end, I was more than ready to hand her over to her "happily-ever-after" and get it done with!
The various forest/fantasy creatures were charming (except the vampires of course). I wish there had been more of them. I wasn't particularly impressed by the fairy queen and her consort, but that is the way it goes.
The girls' cousin Cezar...well, I really felt sorry for him at first. What he had done was completely obvious to anyone with two brain cells, but I pitied him at first anyway. And I think Marillier realizes that you'll eventually start to feel sorry for him...because suddenly she turns him horrible. Disgusting. Nasty. Lewd if you will. Which really was a pity. So I really disliked him by the end, but it wasn't much of "a victory" It was kind of just like..."whatever. Ewww. Creep. You deserve whatever you get."
My biggest peeve with the book though (besides the Vampires) was the luuuvvvvv. Or what they claim to be love. Like....the older sister. She falls in luuuuuvvvvvvvvv after seeing the dude once (I don't think she exchanged a single word) and promptly wastes away for lluuuuuuvvvv. Or Jena. Because while I do believe she might have fallen in love with her love-interest (I'm not giving anything away here ;) )... it had a disturbing quality about it. Sure, it wasn't all "his broad shoulders" "her sweet mouth" idiotic gobbily gook (If you hadn't guessed from previous reviews, nothing ticks me off faster then romance based solely on appearance) but (yes! ha! a but of doom!) there was a lot of...TMI. For example, every time she touches lover-boy she feels "a thrill go through her body". I dunno....I wish them happily-ever-after but I wasn't to sorry let them go when I put the book down.
So, did I like this book or not? Almost all the themes and content felt slightly inconsistent to me but...it was a weaving spell of fairy tales. And, in fact, if I get the opportunity, I'd probably read the sequel and more by this author. Just to see if she does it again.
Would I recommend it? That is a trickier question. Maybe. Just enter realizing there are vampires. And it is kind of predictable. But a good mixture of fairytale and folklore.
Profile Image for Katie Gallagher.
Author 5 books217 followers
August 12, 2018
This is one of those books where from the very first page you know that you're in good hands. It's been AGES since I've read Juliet Marillier (more than... fifteen years...?) but I remember her books extremely fondly, and I'm sure I'll pick up another one just as fast as I can manage it. (Well, who knows, actually. Wrangling an ever-expanding TBR list is a task and a half.)

The prose is gorgeous, the pacing is perfect, the mythology exquisite. I love that the character list and the setting are kept small, so that details build upon themselves and give you a true sense that you're there, watching events unfold. This is really a character piece; it gets a bit more plot-ish at the end, but most of what's happening stems fully from Marillier's iron-strong character development. People who are into books that follow developing leaders butting heads with power-hungry slimeballs, take note: this will be right up your alley. Also good for anyone who is into court intrigue fantasy; there's a definite similarity here.

My one critique would be that many of the plot twists are quite obvious, even from a couple hundred pages away. But I found that didn't really matter in this book; again, it's all about the character development and learning each character's motivations. 5/5
Profile Image for Sesana.
5,327 reviews343 followers
October 24, 2012
I feel absolutely no shame in admitting that I initially read this book solely because of the beautiful cover by Kinuko Craft. I've loved her work for years, so when I say that the best thing about the book is the cover, that is by no means a slight against the writing. Actually, Marillier writes quite lovely prose, and I liked her general take on the fairy world.

However... The actual plot was muddled. I think this was mostly from trying to cram way, way too much stuff into a single book. It is, as is obvious from the summary, a take on Twelve Dancing Princesses. And also the Frog Prince. And also there are vampires. And Baba Yaga. AND impossible quests for love. AND fairy abductions. AND criticism about the inequities of inheritance law that favors firstborn sons. AND... You get the picture. With a tighter focus, this would have been a far, far better read. And even with reducing the twelve princesses to five, most of the sisters were more character sketches (that I suspect owed more to Pride and Prejudice than anything else) than fully realized people.

Still, Marillier is very good, and her dialog was mostly on point. And oh, that cover!
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