As I suspect I’ve made quite clear, I’m a big fan of Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters Trilogy. In 2008, a sequel to the trilogy was published, but it was only within the last year that I learned of it and it is only very recently that I finished reading it.
In one respect, the story was (almost) disappointingly predictable. All of these books involve a love story (that wasn’t the disappointing part) and all those love stories start with the future lovers to be conflicted in the sense that the main character doesn’t recognize the man as her future love. So, when this book started with Clodagh meeting two young men, one she disliked and one she favored, I knew from the start which she would end up with, and I was right. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That pattern is one of the things that hold these stories together (along with their milieu and the very strength these characters exhibit). That being said, it was in that sense predictable.
Fresh from reading the story, I’m still struck by the sheer magnitude of the events and the masterful way Marillier captured those events. Long have I heard warnings, especially in regards to fantasy, about involving god-like beings in one’s stories. In previous books, I’ve seen Marillier carefully establish rules that allowed the god-like beings to provide aid while also constraining them so the heroes could shine. In this story, that balance was turned, the most powerful of the god-like beings set as the enemy and the others too weak to challenge him alone—with a human heroine who was weaker still as the catalyst for change. It takes a master storyteller to pull it off, because the rules constraining and empowering all the beings (both human and other) have to be clear and they have to make sense. Marillier did a beautiful job, establishing the rules to make the impossible possible, but also showing the difficulty of doing so in a way that felt real.
Having re-read the original Sevenwaters Triology before tackling this book, I can’t help but point out another observation—which applies less to readers in general and more to my fellow writers. In the first book, Daughter of the Forest, there are beautiful passages of description that are crafted with excellence. I even selected a particular passage for a recent discussion on the sublime. But, as beautiful and wonderful as these passages are, in each subsequent book they get fewer and shorter. In Heir to Sevenwaters such passages are, while still beautiful, woven in with such a deft, masterful hand there are almost invisible. The point being that these passages become both less noticeable and more exquisite as they’re woven more deeply and securely into the narrative. This is something that we, as writers, should emulate in our own work.
It’s this advancement of skill, which I so long for in my own writing, that keeps making the Sevenwaters series stronger and stronger. I salute Marillier with an image shining through my mind, of the setting sun turning white feathers to blazing gold.