By Juliet Marillier
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 girl 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---and 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.
I have heard a lot of love for this book and was just waiting for the right time and mood to read it. I was not disappointed. IT was a sort of mix of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, and The Frog Prince, except it was so originally done, you can only catch a passing resemblance to this stories. It was great story-telling. The choice of setting the story in Romania was awesome, though I was miffed with the names and even with the pronunciation guide, I still had difficulty and found it halted the flow of the story. Other than that the girls, of which there are only 5, are well fleshed out and individual, which is rare to find outside of the heroine of the story. The fairy realm is beautiful and the dwarves and other creatures were just as mystical. I was reminded of all the images that stuck in my mind as a child about fae creatures and was transported there with them. There is much about love and sacrifice, honor and choice. It’s got some great gems in it about where our choices lead us, and the love story was not straight-forward and predictable. That was my favorite part. I got a bout of dread when vampires showed up—but no worries. They are not even named as vampires, but “night people” (though they totally were vampires) and they are as nightmarish and eerie as they should be. No sparkles! It was a wonderful story full of magic and a little mayhem, and mostly a test of courage and ingenuity for the characters. Highly recommend this, not only to people who like re-tellings, but people who enjoy a good fantasy.
I give it a 4.25 out of 5