Wildwood Dancing Book Review

Five adventurous sisters

Four dark creatures

Two forbidden lovers

One enchanted frog

— front flap

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

I love this book. I reread it a day or two ago and I felt the need to share it with the world. Because I really like this book.

As you may have noticed, I don’t have a lot of fantasy reviews on here, even though that is my favorite genre to read. That’s just because it is so darn hard to find good fantasy books these days, especially ones that aren’t knockoffs of other great fantasy novels. Wildwood Dancing is not a knockoff, in fact the author went to great lengths to avoid any cliched characters or races of being in her novel. To keep the rambling to a minimum, here’s a list of what I like about the book:

1. It is told in first person, but it kept a mature well balanced voice and descriptive quality. So many times when you read a first person book, the author gives a lot of voiceto the character, but she/he just ends up sounding like any teenager you’d talk to today, regardless of the time period they’re from. In Wildwood Dancing, the main character, Jena is mature, likeable and unique enough that I could pick her thoughts out from a crowd. And she doesn’t sound like any kid off the street.

2. The characters are just fabulous. Jena is strong and caring and independent and very interesting. She doesn’t moan and groan and I feel like I know her. She has a pet frog, Gogu who was equally quirky and mysterious. Then there is the frustrating Ceazar, and the lovely Tati, and the studious Paula, and sweet Stela, and Iluila (all of those girls are Jenna’s sisters. Ceazar is her cousin.). Everyone is normal in the sense they have more to them than just the one trait I listed here. But most importantly, they make you feel. They were like my own family, meaning that I got angry with them, or dissapointed in them– basically the kinds of things you would feel for a sibling.

3. The plot for this book…well, it’s a fairy tale, but with darker twists and turns. It integrates traditional concepts in not-so-traditional ways and it’s equally parts adventerous and romantic. Despite it being based of the story of the tweleve dancing princesses, it isn’t as frivolous or flimsy. The author adds in deeper elements, like the conflict between Jenna and her cousin Ceazar as they struggle to fill Jenna’s father’s role as caretaker for the home. While based the very real Romania and imbued with its culutre, fantasy leaks into the story and gives it a vibrant new color and life. The plot neither drags nor skims: the pace is just right. If I could change one thing, I’d fill out the ending a little bit more. However, there is closure and the bulk of the story more than makes up for. Simply put, it’s exactly what would happen if fairy tales met real life.

4. The writing is very well done. No stealing from other books, no long windy passages. Just a wonderfully described world set in a place you don’t often see in books (Romania). It’s a great background for all the magical happenings. More books should be there. And more people should write this way. It’s both easy to understand, good for all ages, and timeless. My children could enjoy this book twenty years from now and I know I will like it when I’m old too.

My verdict? This book is the perfect length, and size. At just under 400 pages it might seem like a long read, but the font (besides being fitting in its style) is sized to make it feel shorter than it actually is. The story is charmind and wrought with adventure. I would call this the perfect winter fantasy read. It’s cozy and cute and deserving of a larger fan base. Also, look at the cover art. It just screams magic, which this book, you know, is.

Ri’s rating:




0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…

1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.

2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.

3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.

4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).

5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.

6 and above. What I want my book to be.

Leave a comment


  1. “you don’t often see in books: Romania. It’s a great background for all the magical happenings. More books should be there.”
    Thanks Rah.

  2. Alice the Anomalous

     /  August 8, 2009

    It looks good to me. It always bugs me when I read a lot of books when the female lead always ends up being….too much like a real teenager. True, it’s not real in a sense because they’re all flat and boring, like a lot of “real” people in life. I think i need to take a trip to the library before school starts *the horror*
    I know this is really short, but I’m gonna go through other book reviews of yours.

    • Ri

       /  August 12, 2009

      this probably is the shortest comment i’ve ever gotten….i’m actually surprised people read those book reviews…

      • Alice the Anomalous

         /  September 1, 2009

        Ahhh, took me so long to reply. I don’t think I checked that box thing at the bottom that lets me see any follow up/replies. I didn’t know!
        School starts for me tomorrow *HIGH SCHOOL, FRACK!* and I have yet to finish the book I’m reading. This must be the longest time I’ve delayed finishing a book. It’s called Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink. It’s about twins. And ironically, this Michelle Zink woman read into my life while writting this, I’m sure of it! First of all the main character (side: good) is called Amalia, or lia for short. So naturally her sister must be the evil one, right? Correct. Her sister’s name is none other than ALICE. I was shocked, because, I’m a good guy. Sure, I lie, have a cold stare, and am ruthless, but a good guy none the less. and my nemesis in real life has a name strikingly simillar to “Amalia”. Take out the second A and add an “E” in its place as you please.
        I also get a weird Gemma Doyle feeling from the book, and if this woman watches anime or reads manga, she got the twin motif.
        I read a review of this book, and someone said that it was surprising to see them say that it’s unusual to have twins that are distant. In my mind, to get a cliche with twins, you either make them clones, or so different, they shouldnt even be related, but have some idiosyncratic thing in common like a love for cute, pink rabbit plushies.
        I haven’t even gotten through the fracking book and I’m already ranting. Now with every book involving a female protagonist, there is a LOVE INTEREST *I think this is getting rather old*. I’m rather tired of seeing a girl, who could be strong and independant having to fall for a boy. There’s almost no point to having the kid there other than translating Latin for the girl or hiding a book, etc. Of course, I haven’t gotten through all of the book, so what would I know? He could emerge from loverboy-dom to become superman (whom I’m still not impressed by. I’m cynical about lois lane as of now).
        The book’s tone doesn’t really WOW me because it’s about the supernatural and prophecies and junk. I *have(n’t)* seen something like that, EVER *not*. The combination of motifs and little details here and there in the plot make it somewhat original, but I can see how this is going already. The end probably won’t surprise me.
        So this girl, Lia *I’m still sour about the Alice in this story’s role, but as long it isn’t this Alice speaking, I’m okay with it* is rather….meek. I can understand that her dad just died, and this is 1900’s era NYC with being a proper lady as the standard, but seriously girl, get a grip. Can’t have life pass you by wondering what is, was, could, would, and shoulda been because all you’ll do is repeat the cycle like you do with your next load of laundry. The POV is first person in present tense, so I have to listen to her drabble on and on about the expectations of her prestigous lady’s school and what not. Maybe it’s just me, but I want to start a riot at her school and “accidentally” spill water on the headmistress and say that I thought she’d melt.

        I think I should start writting some book reviews. I love your scale for rating. Snort enducing funny, but also very elegant to my tastes.

      • I love books with romance, but I know what you mean. It seems like EVERY book has romance in it these days becuase they feel like they have to, not becuase the characters actually work out together or share special “awww” scenes and crap like that (which is crap i love to read….)

        In my story, there is romance, but it’s very subtle and rarely takes center stage of a scene. It’s more like two people, starting an adventure together and they slowly start to care for each other more and more until one day they kinda realize they REALLY like being around each other and slowly the romance begins. I like that because I think it’s a realistic way of falling in love with someone and it makes sense for who my characters are.

        Love at first sight never really made sense to me. Lust at first sight, yes, but love? How can you love someone you don’t know. I hate it when boys and girls in my school go on saying that they love each other. What can they know about love? Geez. Just say, “I really really like you,” becuase, as always, about a month later, they’re broken up.

        I hate it when a book has two people “hate” each other and then suddenly start liking that person. It doesn’t make much sense and it’s very hard to pull off. I think Twilight is one of the few books that managed to make the love-to-hate thing work. And it at least made sense there….

        What I can’t stand is when a story is going along, ladeda, and outta nowhere this romance comes and smacks you in the face. I think that’s the crappiest thing of all. Especially, like you said, when it’s a girl character that is totally fine and then has to fall in love and make her self weak.

        Which is another point! Why is it when girl characters fall in love they become totally useless?!?!?!?
        I HATE THAT!
        It’s so lame. I can understand the romantic appeal of having a girl be saved by a boy, but that doesn’t mean she has to become stupid and unable to think. That was one of the things that really bothered me about Bella from Twilight….

        And, the whole feminist movement that we have today, where the girl has to be tough tough tough and a feminist girl can’t fall in love deal thing, I hate that. That’s what I really liked about the Jessica Darling series is that the character was smart and funny and unique and feminist, but wasn’t above liking a boy.

        It’s so hard to find good romance books these days….
        so many dumb vampire knockoffs…
        so much crap

        and I gotta read Catching Fire, sequel to the hunger games. Can’t wait!

      • Alice the Anomalous

         /  September 2, 2009

        I enjoy romance in stories, too, but only when it’s written really, really, REALLY well because if otherwise, it just seems like another story of someone’s life that doesn’t make me want to care much. IT just seems like their whole world is centered around this “love”. It doesn’t make me see any side of that character anymore, it just lets me see “in love-mode”.
        There’s romance (sometimes deep and passionate, at other times shallow and one sided) in my stories too. Sometimes when I read fanfictions I see the whole developement of the relationship, but it’s all blah when they actually admit that they love each other. So I guess it’s true when they say it’s about the journey, not the destination. So I try to make the two characters I have not have to change themselves when they’re together. They’re just themselves around each other. I suppose it’s partly because they’re very affectionate people individually with no one to give their affections to until they’re together, but I make it work.
        Kids at my school do that too! I never go snooping around because, honestly, I have no genuine interest in these people’s lives. It’s just boring to me, but I know it happens around here. The relationships between the kids here isn’t in depth at all. They’re just looking to have pure fun, no matter who gets hurt. I’m not saying that I’m the guru when it comes to love advice, but frack, it just bugs me whenever I see this happen.
        YES, exactly! Even if the girl is weak in the beginning, just making her fall in love suddenly changes her? How is that supposed to make you feel better about yourself? It’s one thing to have others believe in you, but it’s another to believe in yourself. It annoys me when she becomes even weaker too! It just annoys me when people change for love!
        You know if you can’t find a romance you like, you can always right the best one because then you can put in whatever you think should be in it. I shall do the same.
        Time to go do my homework *dammit! When i thought it was over, they pilled it right back up*.
        -Alice the Anomalous

      • It sucks when homework just gets pilled on, and even more when it’s just useless “busy work” that doesn’t even help me learn, and it sucks even more more when the teachers don’t even collect it.

        Our teachers are on strike, otherwise we’d have school right now. It’s nice to have a few more days of summer but we’ll eventually have to make those days up, so that’s not good.

        Anyways, I just found this site called My Writers Circle and there you can have your work reviewed, ask grammar questions, critique others and have a blast. I signed up last night (it’s free and easy– do I sound like an ad?) and the people there are really nice. It’s just a bunch of forums really, but I like it. And I know you’re a writer so I thought I’d let you know.

        I’ve been looking for a writing community for some time now, so I am really looking forward to getting involved there.

        Plus, seeing as I am a writer that’s too lazy to edit her own damn (excuse my french) book, I’ll have lots of time to review others. Even now that last sentence sounds dumb. Gah.

        So, how’s life?


      • Alice the Anomalous

         /  September 3, 2009

        I consider you a very lucky individual. My school has an hour long lunch period, but yet I have nothing to do! I can’t find any of my friends to sit with, so that’s a bust. I’m suddenly being nice to al the girls I hate *I bet it’s the lack of sleep*
        There’s this one thing that really irks me about english class (writting portion). There’s this thing called writting lab, where you have to go out of your way to have a teacher read your paper (you have to sign up for the blasted thing), and you have to do this every single time there’s an essay assigned. They won’t take your paper and grade it if you don’t. I just don’t think I have the fracking time to go through all of that. I now understand why some people do crappy at school. It’s a hassle.
        I’m kind of a self-editor. I edit while I write (procrastinate and eat at my desk too). I know it’s supposed to be good for me, but I only need some feedback, and I’ll make it close to flawless the next day if I want to be lazy the day after.
        I shall excuse your french, only because I don’t know french! *trying to learn too many languages at one time is a BAD idea* I’m one of those authors too. I spend not nearly enough time *if at all* writting my own stuff, but I still have time *or not* to read others’ books and review them *most likely negatively* and try to make my plot bunnies even better, though they shall never be written. Blehh, run on sentence!
        I kinda made a new friend or two, but not much progress is showing. All I can do now is control my state of mind thoroughly. I’m not letting this stuff get to my head, I can bad mouth all these idiots later, but all I need to do now is RELAX and be the devious lazy cellist I am and PWN. That doesn’t really make any sense but it means I’m looking at school as sheer knowledge being delivered daily. Thus my non-existant social life will be spared once I get in contact with my accomplices. THIS WILL NOT FALL.
        Though my being nice to these floozies could just indicate that I’m actually TORTURING THEM because they know somethings coming, they’ll become paranoid, and when they expect something, nothing will come. They shall be consumed in their own paranoia! All a part of the overall scheme…….Or at least that’s the cover story. It could just because I’m too lazy to do all my hobbies properly.
        Life’s going at a pace a block of ice would go if it were stuck in between two massive glaciers. Not at all. I kind of miss having no one to talk to, even though I have almost no one to talk to. The good thing is that there’s a three day weekend this week, hehe.
        I’ve been using a dry erase board to draw pretty much anything that’s good. Interesting huh?

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