A retelling of The Six Swans, Daughter of the Forest pulled me fully into its story, often leaving me trying (and failing) to look like I hadn’t been weeping during my lunch break.
Set in 10th century Ireland, Sorcha is the seventh child of a mother who died in childbirth and a distant father. With dad usually off protecting the borders of his land – Sevenwaters – against the Picts, Britons and Vikings, Sorcha has spent most of her childhood roaming the forests of her home in the company of her six big brothers.
Their world soon changes when dad brings home a new and spiteful stepmother for them – one brother is soon under her spell while she persecutes the others, but things are really ramped up when they try to gather to undo her hold on their father, as stepmum has far greater powers than they feared and Sorcha’s brothers are transformed. But Sorcha has been noticed by the Lady of the Forest who sets Sorcha a task in order to save her brothers – she must make them each a shirt, and not utter a word until her task is done.
I didn’t really have huge expectations of this book when I started, and had forgotten even buying it, but I adore a retold fairytale and was delighted as soon as it dawned on me that this was the Six Swans. Sorcha’s longing and heartache is incredibly well realised, as you can probably tell due to my aforementioned tears.
I feel I should warn potential readers that there is a rather graphic rape scene as well as lots of other rape threats – both implied and overt – and the treatment of these threats by other characters is also upsetting at times. I’m aware that sexual violence against women was (and still is) a daily reality for women throughout the ages, as is victim blaming attitudes, but it still made for some hard reading.
That said, I still enjoyed this book deeply and I’ll certainly be looking up further books from the series.