I’m back to Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters, this time with Seer of Sevenwaters which picks up right where Heir of Sevenwaters left off, at least as far as momentous events go. There seem to be about four years in between the two stories, which the characters from the last book attain a certain degree of peace and safety—at a cost. This story continues that story, but through events that affect other characters more strongly. In other words, it’s a good example of a series arc being carried through over the course of a stand-alone story.
The primary beat of this story, however, is the stand-alone story. Seer of Sevenwaters bring Sibeal, the ultra-calm, ultra-sure sister to the forefront, revealing what’s behind the peaceful mask. It’s enlightening, and it’s believable, but at the same time I’m not entirely sure I’m convinced that it’s an accurate reflection. You see, from Child of Prophecy, Sibeal is introduced as a seer who is destined to be a druid. Her faith is, seemingly, unshakeable. Her vocation—her calling—is obvious. Yet, it seems, the entire purpose of the story is to call that calling into question. The blatant suggestion is that a life of the spirit is too much of a sacrifice for one’s faith; that a life of romantic love and family is far superior. For the sake of the story, it works and it is believable.
At the same time the entire story doubts the integrity of many faiths. After all, many faiths require abstinence and life-long devotion from its religious leaders. Not all, certainly, but many. This life, of course, is not for everyone. Practically speaking, if it were there wouldn’t be a next generation. But to suggest that it is inferior to a “normal” life of lovers, family, and daily obligations is to doubt the genuine satisfaction some obtain through faith and service to others.
I had to suspend my disbelief of this theme in order to appreciate the book. In the end, the characters find a very Protestant “middle ground” between faith and romantic love. For the story, it works, but in retrospect, I’m not entirely satisfied with that decision. It reduces the integrity of Sibeal at the least, and calls into question the past respect Marillier had shown to both druids and Christians (the dominant religious figures in the series). Considering the other ways this book deviated from the set pattern of previous books, I think Marillier would have done better to tell a story that didn’t discredit Sibeal’s character.