Synopsis according to Goodreads:
"High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It's an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle's hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.
But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he's there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena's sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom--an impossible union it's up to Jena to stop.
When Cezar's grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can't imagine--tests of trust, strength, and true love."
Wildwood Dancing is a fairytale retelling of the best kind. Juliet Marillier deftly weaves coming of age, 1500/1600s fantasy, Romanian lore, the nature of sisterhood and friendship, and romance in a gorgeous and compelling novel.
Each character in this book is developed- they have quirks but are not solely contained within them. The "villains" are not empty creatures of evil, but complex and driven folk, and Jena's compassion tries time and again to be fair and not judge them for their wrongs.
I adored Jena, as a character. I would love to have her as a friend. She's practical, compassionate, grounded, analytical, and a natural leader. While all of the sisters were in turn excellent (darling, brave Stela, wickedly smart Paula, reminds-me-of-me-at-13 Iulia, maternal Tatiana) it was Jena who I was most rooting for.
I also enjoy the many fairytale themes pulled in throughout the book. From the 12 Dancing Princesses premise, to Goblin Fruit overtones, and many, many more, it was clear to me that Juliet Marillier is gifted at being clever without being bogged down by the inclusion of clever ideas. Yay!
I highly recommend this book for everyone who enjoys being young at heart, who recalls the bittersweet joys of growing up, who enjoys fairytale retellings and realistic fantasy, who likes realistic romances and practical characters, and who likes storytelling-type books.
Also, it bears noting that I listened to the audiobook, read by Kim Mai Guest (who also read Kill Me Softly). She is an amazing narrator. I think I'll listen to anything read by her!
Labels: audiobook, book love, book review, coming of age, fae, fairytale retelling, fantasy, female protagonist, historical fiction, juliet marillier, transylvania, vampires, wildwood dancing, YA