Friday, July 9, 2021

Into the Wildwood.

To my dearest friends and followers,

For the past month, I've felt really dry. By that I mean, creatively dry. Several times I sat down with the intention of writing a blog post and I just stared at the blank page before me, my mind equally as empty. I felt I had nothing to share, nothing exciting was happening that I felt like I wanted to talk about, and I still haven't worked on my novel.

I really need to take the time to write it, I know I keep saying that. What I think I want to do and maybe will set a goal for myself in the next few weeks, is find a writing buddy who will motivate me and share the experience of writing with me. Someone to keep me accountable basically. And I will do likewise for them.

While I've felt a bit dry, I've been doing some reading. I wasn't allowed to read this certain book when I was a kid, but I recently came across it again and began reading it. Wildwood Dancing is the title, written by Juliet Marillier.
It's one of the best fantasy novels I've ever read, right up there with The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge and The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald.

Wildwood Dancing is a bit different than most middle grade fantasy novels I've read though, in that it is not set in the traditional English settings that most fantasy novels are, but rather, it is set in Transylvania and pulls heavily from the folklore from that surrounding area.

The story is lightly based on the fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses by the Brother's Grimm. Instead of 12 sisters though, Marillier writes about 5 sisters who live in a castle. Every Full Moon, the sisters pass in secret from their world into the Other Kingdom and spend the night dancing with the fairy folk.
Jena is the second eldest sister, but behaves like the oldest sister, while Tati is the eldest sister, but behaves, in my opinion, much more like the youngest sister.
Tati becomes deeply involved in the seemingly dangerous affairs of the vampire-like Night People, while Jena is trying her best to look after the household in her father's absence.

Possibly my favorite parts of the story are in the flashbacks where 5 year old Jena and her 2 older cousins, Costi and his younger brother, Cezar, are playing near the Deadwash (the body of water that separates their world from the Other Kingdom and which they are forbidden to play near).
The 3 children find themselves playing a game of make-believe in which Jena is Queen of the Fairies, Costi is King of the Lake, and Cezar is King of the land. However, while the children are playing, the Witch of the Wood comes to them and tells them that their game is not a game of make-believe, but that there is truth in it, and that each of them must sacrifice something to get what they want. Jena gives the witch her precious paper maché tiara, while Costi gives the witch a precious family heirloom given to the eldest son, and Cezar - well, we weren't sure what he gave up.

Eventually the witch left and the children continued their game. If only they hadn't been playing near the Deadwash, Costi would still be alive. If only Cezar were as kind-hearted as his father had been, the village might still live in peace. If only Father had not gotten ill and left Jena in charge. And why did the Night People have to show up and steal Jena's sister away? Why won't the witch help her make things right again? And who is the little talking frog who mysteriously showed up?

Honestly, it's such a good book filled with strong friendships, family bonds, heart wrenching betrayals, forbidden love, and hidden secrets.
There are many unforgettable characters, such as Gogu the frog, Drâguța the shapeshifting witch riding upon her tiny white fox, Sorrow and his sister, Silence, and of course, strong headed Jena.

There are many things I really liked about the book, but one of the things that really stood out to me was Jena's character. I feel like there are a lot of modern shows being made that are not historically accurate at all, in that the woman is not at all what a woman would have been at that time; she talks back, is not respectful of others, is stubborn, unladylike, etc. and it's not addressed by any of the other characters - like it's not out of the ordinary. 
However, Juliet Marillier did a really great job in writing a character who is not like the typical women of that time in that she incorporated it appropriately into the story. Jena is different, she stands out, she is outspoken about women's rights. An early feminist as it were. I compare her to Jo March from Little Women. She is a strong female character without being a physically strong bad-ass warrior woman like we see so often today. She is strong because she is breaking the stereotype of women of her day, she is standing up for what she believes in, and is pursuing her dreams and determined to succeed in a man's world and she is acknowledged for her efforts and faces backlash from her male peers. It feels very real for the time that the story is set in. But most of all, it feels real. It feels like something achievable. While Katness Everdeen and Wonder Woman are pretty epic ladies, they're not realistic or achievable for someone like you or me.
I give much credit to Juliet Marillier for keeping the book feeling time-appropriate and also writing a strong female heroine. We need more books like this.

Currently I am reading Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Perhaps I'll give my thoughts on that next week.
I hope you all are doing well and thank you so much for reading!!

Yours truly,

I highly suggest you take a look at Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier. I definitely give it ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ stars!!

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