Book Review: Wildwood Dancing, by Juliette Marillier

wildwood_dancing_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

“The voice was deep and dark, like indigo velvet. A chill went down my spine” (114). But Night People aren’t Jena’s only concern this cold, medieval winter. Let me be the first to welcome you to the Wildwood, a wonderful, magical place that, every full moon, welcomes Jena and her four sisters to a splendid party. Juliet Marillier, an author from New Zealand who lives in Australia, weaves a fantastic and complex story of love, trust, family, and magic in her wonderful novel Wildwood Dancing.

Picture medieval Europe: a manor in Transylvania with an old castle surrounded by a feared forest and deadly lake called the Deadwash. Jena, the lead character, is the second eldest in a family with no mother and five daughters. She is brave, caring, strong, protecting, and clever. This winter, however, her father has to say good bye, leaving the girls to fend for themselves. All would have been well, save her dominating cousin Cezar. This evil and overpowering man poses the first of many conflicts to Jena. But Jena isn’t to fight them alone. Meet Gogu, a funny, smart, kind, loyal, loving, and talking frog. Well, not exactly talking. He talks into Jena’s, and only Jena’s, head. Many, especially Cezar, don’t approve of Jena’s choice of companion, but she won’t let him go for anything and their friendship grows to be key in the plot line.

Cezar and Jena have endured a tragedy that they still haven’t recovered from: the loss of Cezar’s big brother, Costi, nine years ago. Jena sees how Cezar has grown to be very vengeful, and his threat to cut down the forest and bring the Wildwood down with it had become scarily real on top of him taking over. Another growing threat is the Night People. There are many horrible stories and legends that surround these fearful creatures, and it becomes a deadly reality when a village woman dies- with bloody fang wounds in her neck. Tati, Jena’s gorgeous older sister, falls deeply in love with Sorrow, one of the Night People. This causes Jena more trouble, as her sister becomes distant, forgetful, and extremely devastated because she can’t see him. Jena realizes that if Tati goes with him, she will never see Tati again, but if she stays, she will continue to not eat and fade.

Throughout these many conflicts, many themes exist, but there are two main ones that I will share with you. The first theme is that standing up to others around may be hard, but it is rewarding. Jena and her sisters stand up to their cousin whenever they can, but is it enough to stop him? The second theme is to trust those you love and question when you are not in a trustworthy situation. Trust and instinct is an important part of the whole book, but you’ll have to read it to find out why.

This story is told from Jena’s point of view. Juliet Marillier uses this voice to be very descriptive and paint vivid pictures in the readers mind. Her expert word choice and careful structure make this book an amazing read. One of my favorite descriptive lines she uses is when she is describing the Wildwood when Jena visits, “Gowns and masks, robes and jewels filled the open space with a swirling mass of colors” (17).

If you want a deep, magical, amazing book to read, I recommend this book for you. Juliet Marillier will have you turning pages faster than ever. It is a great book for all young teenagers, with just the right amount of romance, action, and suspense for everyone. I really enjoyed this book, and finished it and the sequel in less than a week! It is truly a book everyone should be required to read. So if you want to find out to the gorgeous, love-stuck Tati, dominating, creepy Cezar, funny, loving Gogu the frog, and brave, kind Jena, read this fantastic book!

-Katherine S., 7th grade

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