Sarah Reviews: Wildwood Dancing


Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

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. 

Date Started: July 20th, 2017

Date Finished: July 26th, 2017

Recommended By: N/A

Acquired: Purchased at Half Price Books $1 Sale

Trigger Warnings: Sexual Assault, Misogyny

Rating: 3/5 Stars

The Good: The Romanian setting was fresh and interesting, and Marillier made a deliberate effort to avoid typical Transylvanian stereotypes (she even has a great author’s not in the back about it). The main character was very consistently written. She was unmistakably a fifteen-year-old girl, and many young adult novels struggle with conveying the worldview of someone that age. Marillier accomplished it, and both Jena’s internal and external conflicts were compelling. Cezar was an excellent antagonist, the sort of thing that’s uncomfortably familiar and very believable. Each of the sisters has a defined personality, which some retellings of this story tend to struggle with. From a retelling perspective, I think she did a great job, and she folded in another fairy tale in a fun, sweet way. 

The Bad: Although Jena was written consistently and I appreciate the accuracy with which her age was written, I found her to be a bit frustrating sometimes. She was extremely stubborn and determined to see things her own way. This is clearly an intentional flaw, but it became a little annoying to read after a while. The secondhand romance was all right, but a bit alarming, and I wasn’t totally satisfied by it. I also thought the pacing was a bit slow, and this was made worse by very long chapters (20-30 pages apiece)! It’s part of why it took so long to get through, because I like to be able to stop at chapter breaks, but the chapters were often too long for me to get through in the windows in my day-to-day schedule. 

Representation: The Transylvanian setting was nice, of course, and @elenalanstova-morozova will tell you that Romania is woefully underrepresented in books. However, there was no other form of representation anywhere in this book. Everyone was white and straight (there’s a mention of an Arab business partner, but he’s never seen on the page). So, I can’t give any solid points for representation.

Favorite Line: The forest had a special beauty in winter: frozen waterfalls like delicate shawls; foliage shrouded in a glittering, rimy coating; blue-white snowdrifts revealing, here and there, a rich litter of darkened leaves in a thousand damp colors of brown and gray.”