Author: Juliet Marillier
Publication Date: November 2012
Hardcover: 448 Pages
Bestselling author Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters series has been praised as a “magnificent saga” (Alernative Worlds) that is a “gripping tale of enduring love” (Publishers Weekly). Now, Marillier returns to Sevenwaters with the story of a young woman destined to unlock the secrets of the Otherworld…
Maeve, daughter of Lord Sean of Sevenwaters, was badly burned as a child and carries the legacy of that fire in her crippled hands. After ten years, she’s returning home, having grown into a courageous, forthright woman with a special gift for gentling difficult animals. But while her body’s scars have healed, her spirit remains fragile, fearing the shadows of her past.
Sevenwaters is in turmoil. The fey prince Mac Dara has become desperate to see his only son, married to Maeve’s sister, return to the Otherworld. To force Lord Sean’s hand, Mac Dara has caused a party of innocent travelers on the Sevenwaters border to vanish—only to allow their murdered bodies to be found, one by one.
When Maeve finds the body of one of the missing men in a remote part of the woods, she and her brother Finbar embark on a journey that may bring about the end of Mac Dara’s reign, or lead to a hideous death. If she is successful, Maeve may open the door to a future she has not dared to believe possible…
Stand alone or series: Book 6 in the Sevenwaters Series
How did I get this book: Review Copy from the Publisher
Why did I read this book: The Sevenwaters series is one that is very near to my heart – I fell in love with Sorcha in Daughter of the Forest, and have dearly cherished the Sevenwaters clan ever since. This book – the sixth volume in the series, closing out the second arc of the Sevenwaters saga (hopefully not forever) – was one of my most highly anticipated books of 2012.
Maeve, the fourth daughter of Lord Sean and Lady Aisling of Sevenwaters, has lived apart from her immediate family for ten years. As a child Maeve fell victim to a terrible fire, scarring her face and body and costing her the use of her hands. For ten years since, Maeve has lived with her Aunt Liadan and Uncle Bran in Britain – sent away by her parents at first in the hopes that Liadan would be able to find a salve or poultice that could help Maeve heal and regain some movement of her fingers and hands. As the years pass, however, and the reality of Maeve’s condition sets in, she learns from her foster family how to be brave and strong in the face of adversity, how to accept herself, and live a happy, normal life. Maeve is resigned to never be married or run a household in the manner that a chieftan’s wife would, and instead, she hones another skill – Maeve has a natural gift for communicating and soothing animals, and uses her skills to train horses in Bran’s stables. As for Sevenwaters and her birth parents, Maeve has little desire to ever return home, where she believes she will certainly be seen as an embarrassment to her father, and a weight on the household to her mother.
All of that changes when Lord Sean writes a desperate missive to Bran – Sevenwaters faces a dire threat. The men and two sons of neighboring Chieftan Cruinn of Tirconnell have disappeared while riding through Sevenwaters woods, and despite Lord Sean’s search efforts, the corpses of Cruinn’s men are turning up one by one, murdered in cruel, unimaginable ways. Mac Dara, the cold king of the fair folk, is behind the Disappearances – his end goal, presumably, to lure his only son Cathal back to Sevenwaters, to force Cathal to succeed Mac Dara’s reign of darkness and grief. Mac Dara’s actions have a more immediate and sinister implication, however, as Sevenwaters faces threat of war from Cruinn and other clans that have fallen out of kinship with Lord Sean. In order to appease and soothe these tensions, Lord Sean implores Bran to send his finest, most prized stallion across the sea to Erin as a peace offering while Sean’s men continue to search for Cruinn’s sons. The journey from Britain is long and hard, though, and for Bran’s prize horse – a skittish stallion named Swift – only Maeve can calm the beast enough to endure the journey.
Maeve’s long overdue return to Sevenwaters is fraught hardship and heartbreak, as she must confront her past and face her family, but it bears the promise of hope and love, as well. Her homecoming is the key to stopping Mac Dara; together with her younger brother Finbar, and aided by two loyal hounds, Maeve must journey to the Otherworld and fulfill a long forgotten geas to protect those she loves from all harm and safeguard Sevenwaters’ future.
The sixth in the Sevenwaters series, Flame of Sevenwaters is an Epic Book (note the capitalization). There’s a sense of gravity throughout this novel, as the ‘coming storm’ feel of all the previous books – including the first trilogy, with the events of Child of the Prophecy – come to an inevitable, high-stakes showdown. It’s terrifying and exhilarating, with all of the prophecies and geasa revealed, as older figures like Ciaran, and newer faces like Maeve and Finbar, desperately make one last play to safeguard the future of Sevenwaters.
And dear, sweet readers – I loved this book. With the force of an exploding, devastatingly enormous supernova, I loved this book.
Part of the reason for this love is Flame of Sevenwaters‘ heroine, Maeve, who narrates this tale. Like her sisters and her family that preceded her in the prior books, Maeve faces a daunting task that requires incredible courage and dedication. More than that, Maeve also faces physical and emotional challenges unlike any her sisters have ever confronted. Her scars and the lack of use of her hands has made Maeve approach daily life in a different way than Liadan or Clodagh, or even, arguably, Sorcha. Though she must rely on a maidservant to help her eat and perform tasks like washing and dressing, Maeve is defiant and refuses to indulge in self-pity. Instead of becoming a passive heroine, Maeve builds her ability to sense emotion and empathize with animals and humans alike. Her fear, similarly, is not that she will never been seen as beautiful or that she will never marry, nor does she necessarily fear stigmatization – instead, Maeve’s greatest fear is being helpless. Her strength is deep-rooted in this belief in herself and her refusal to become an object of pity, making her at times a prickly and stubborn heroine, but one worth rooting for wholeheartedly. Believe me when I say that Maeve is tempted and tested in this book, but even if she has fears and doubts, she never loses sight of who she is and what things matter the most to her – that is, the safety of those she loves, be they dogs, horses, or her beloved younger brother Finbar.
Beyond Maeve, this sixth volume also reintroduces many familiar faces, while acquainting readers with new ones, too. Among the familiar there is Finbar, no longer a helpless babe, who has grown into a solemn young boy with an uncanny gift for seeing what is to come. The bond Maeve and Finbar form is tentative at first as they are complete strangers, but grows quickly – Maeve years to give Finbar cause to hope and smile and live a normal childhood, while Finbar takes heart from his sister’s defiance and courage. There’s also the reintroduction of Ciaran, who plays such an important and pivotal role in this last fight against Mac Dara. Liadan and Bran make an appearance, as do Cathal and Clodagh (all my favorite, most beloved characters in this universe – outside of Sorcha and Red, of course). As for new faces, Cruinn the grieving chieftan missing his sons is a powerful figure, as is the introduction of conflicted druid (and unlikely bodyguard to Finbar), Luachan. Besides Maeve, though, my favorite characters are beasts – the two wild hounds, Bear and Badger, that Maeve finds in the shadowy regions of the woods, and beautiful horse, Swift. All three creatures play vital roles in this novel and I will not say how or why – just that though the journey is heartbreaking, it is so worth it.
As always, Juliet Marillier’s writing is spectacular and lush, though I will say that the plot of this final book takes a tad too long to get going – there is lots of introspection, of Maeve dealing with her return to Sevenwaters and trying to get away from the family keep. This isn’t a bad thing as it helps solidify her character and motivations, but the bulk of the actual story takes a good while to start moving. This is a minor criticism in what is an otherwise flawless novel that actually diverts from the other Sevenwaters entries. I appreciate Marillier’s different approach to the structure of the book – in which Maeve’s narrative is interrupted with six smaller interstitials, detailing a druid’s journey – just as I appreciate her creation of a heroine that is not hale and flawlessly beautiful. Nothing against Clodagh or Sibeal, who are wonderful heroines that are powerful in their own ways, Maeve is a different kind of beautiful, whose appeal has nothing to do with her outward appearance. I love that Maeve remains true to herself throughout the book, that there is no miracle cure for her scars or her hands, though there is hope and love aplenty for her future.
And then there’s the journey Maeve undergoes itself! I don’t want to reveal too much of the particulars of said journey, nor do I want to reveal details of the final showdown to unseat Mac Dara from power. Suffice it to say, the stakes are as high as they have ever been, and the journey every bit as perilous – if not moreso – than those taken by any of Maeve’s predecessors.
In short (though it may be too late to call this review short), I adored this book and its singular heroine. Flame of Sevenwaters is every bit as heart-wrenching as Daughter of the Forest, and as powerful as Heir to Sevenwaters. Absolutely, wholeheartedly, enthusiastically recommended – and beyond a doubt, one of my top 10 books of 2012.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
My aunt taught me to hold my head high, even when people stared. My uncle taught me to defend myself. Between them they made sure I learned courage. But I could not be brave about going home.
I was ten when the accident happened: young to be sent away from home and family. My parents must have believed Aunt Liadan could achieve the impossible. True, if any healer could have cured me, she was probably the one to do it. But my hands were beyond fixing. Although she never said so, I think my aunt expected to keep me at Harrowfield only until I had learned to live with my injuries. But days grew into seasons, and seasons into years, and whenever the suggestion was made that perhaps I might return to Erin, I found a reason for saying no.
At Harrowfield the household knew me as I was, not as I had been before. They had learned quickly that I hated fuss. People let me do what I could for myself. Nobody rushed to snatch things away when I was clumsy. Nobody treated me as if I had lost my wits along with the use of my fingers. They did not stare when I chose to walk about with the scar on my head uncovered. All the same, I did not need to travel far from the safe haven of my uncle’s estate to know that in the eyes of the outside world I was a freak.
Back home at Sevenwaters, the world changed without me. A little brother was born. My sisters married, had children, moved away. Family joys and tragedies unfolded. I would hear about them many moons later, in the occasional letters that reached us in Britain. I could not write back. I sent words of love, penned for me by the Harrowfield scribe.
You can read the full excerpt online HERE.
Rating: 9 – Damn Near Perfection
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