Son of the Shadows (Book Two of the Sevenwaters Trilogy)Juliet Marillier
Cover art by Neal Armstrong
Pan Macmillan, September 2000, tpb, ISBN 0 7329 1029 3
Reviewed by Sophie Masson
For admirers of Juliet Marillierís first novel, and the first in the Sevenwater Trilogy, Daughter of the Forest, this new instalment in the saga of the people of Sevenwaters is a confirmation of the authorís talent, storytelling magic and deep understanding of traditional culture. For those of you who have not yet ventured to Sevenwaters, donít delay! This is a real treat of a novel, as was its predecessor.
This one is, like the first, set in Ireland and in Britain, and centred around two main characters: the narrator and strong, subtle heroine, Liadan, daughter of Sorcha, who was the heroine in the earlier novel; and Bran, a vulnerable, hurt, aggressive, deeply complex man who, as the Painted Man, is the leader of a terrifying band of mercenary warriors. Liadan and Branís intertwining stories, their love, and the effect it has on all of those around them, are most marvellously told. The deep hurts of the past reach out more than once to try to engulf them but, at quite a cost, they struggle through. Apart from these main characters, there are many wonderfully-portrayed minor ones, from Niamh, Liadanís beautiful, broken sister, to the indomitable Snake, one of Branís band, and the treacherous Eamonn. As well, Sorcha and her husband, the Briton Hugh of Harrowfield who, for her love, has taken on an Irish name and loyalty, are very much a part of the storyuntil one very affecting moment, when everything changes...
Thereís lots of action, of deceit, of layerings of plot, enough to satisfy the most avid searcher for storytelling excitement; but thereís also vivid characters, an erotically charged love story, lots of magic, and that deep sense, as I mentioned before, of an understanding of traditional culture, which is all too rare in modern fantasy. These people living in their parallel Ireland and Britain behave in ways befitting the saga-like atmosphere of the series, and not as if they were transposed modern Westerners in a fantasy setting, as is all too often the case. Their place and time feels as real as they do. Marillier wears her knowledge lightly and never lets it intrude, but it is there all the same, anchoring the whole story in an immensely satisfying way.
It is interesting, having read two books in the series now, to look at the common threads: the extraordinary, strong, yet never boringly Ďfeistyí heroines, who never seem to think that female strength must necessarily mean acting exactly like a man; the hurt, withdrawn heroes, yet who carry a core of deep love, of extraordinary sacrifice and true honour; the glancing, disturbing yet potent contact with the Otherworld, the faery kingdom just barely within the world; the stirring sense of continuity, of the music of language; the sense not only of high myth but of deeprooted folkloreI felt also the sense of mystery and tragedy that is present, say, in the Arthurian legend. All these things add up, for me, to a reading experience that is truly enchanting, in the real sense of the word. I await with great impatience the concluding book in the series, Child of the Prophecy.
Sophie Masson's latest novel is The Green Prince (Hodder Headline Science Fiction and Fantasy).
©2000 Sophie Masson
Published online: 22 September 2000