Son of the Shadows is the sequel to Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest. It continues on with the same flavor as the previous book, but starts a generation later. Instead of following Sorcha’s story, this time she follows the story of Sorcha’s daughter. I was a bit disappointed the first time I encountered this. I wanted to stick with the same characters, not see those characters play (relatively) bit parts in someone else’s life. I got over that disappointment quickly and now Son of the Shadows is my favorite book.
Of the seven children introduced in the first book, Sorcha is the only one to procreate. Her children live out their childhoods in peaceful harmony with the Forest their family loves. One daughter longs to live a life that burns brightly; the only son balances learning from his father, learning from his uncle (whose heir he is), and becoming his own man; and one daughter—the unexpected child—longs to keep her simple, safe domestic routine.
But change is coming. It’s time for fate (or the Forest’s deities) to stir things up. Trouble is brewing. One child goes astray for the sake of love, and is nearly destroyed because of it. One child faces enormous responsibilities, and must bear this burden without the trust and support he’d grown to expect. One child must go her own way, walking a perilous path between right and wrong without enough information to know which is which, relying on her heart to see her way forward.
And I think that’s what gets me. So many people tell Liadan what is right and what is wrong, without telling her why, but in the end she has to choose for herself and she has the courage to do so. From the outside, the choices seem relatively simple. She can choose the man of property with a stellar reputation (from the perspective of her family) or she can choose a murderer with no conscience. She can choose the safety of the Forest or the dangers of the world. She can choose the well-being of her family or the well-being of strangers. Or she can take the hardest path of all: She can choose to go her own way.
Cursed and blessed with supernatural healing powers (both of body and mind), visions of possible futures mixed in with what may have been or has been or is now, and the ability to speak mind to mind with select members of her family, Liadan must venture into the affairs of men in pursuit of truths others want to hide from her. What past does her lover hide from her that has destroyed his future? Who is the druid her sister loves so dearly? What was so abominable about their union that this love had to be denied them without explanation? What terrible secret forced her family to send her sister away, into the arms of a husband she does not love who treats her so cruelly he nearly destroys her? What dangerous game does her brother play amongst his allies? What is she willing to risk to set things right, for human folk and Fair folk alike?
Her journey is a confusing mix of sweet beauty and poignant pain. She endures, she cries, and she rises strong and brave and true, through the ashes of deceit and mystery, to the culmination of all she can be, which is more than anyone ever expected of her. She’s a heroine of such caliber rarely seen, even in fiction, and she’s still believable. You got to love that!