Sunday, June 2, 2013
Wildwood Dancing (review)
Part of me wants to give Wildwood Dancing (Goodreads | Amazon) a higher rating that 3.5 stars. That part loves the Eastern European setting, the wildwood, folklore and that 5 daughters are the protagonists of this book. But I just can't. Maybe I have just read too many Juliet Marillier books. Somehow I managed to predict every major twist in this book. And it wasn't one of those things where I knew right before the heroine knew. I knew AGES before the heroine or anyone knew so it was frustrating seeing Jena, stumbling around when she's supposedly smart and sensible, when the answer is right in front of her face.
Also Tatiana's illness was an issue for me. A girl withering away for love? Please. She was not eating or drinking because she misses her One True Love. In my world we call that anorexia and it's not romantic at all. The fact that nobody would call a doctor or really talk to Tatiana about what she was doing to her body really bothered me. They walked around the subject on eggshells rather than dealing with it. I know not all characters are strong heroines, but I have trouble swallowing a character who is so damn weak, especially when the problems of her behavior and the message it presents is never fully addressed.
Those two pretty big issues aside, I really enjoyed this book. The Eastern European setting gives it a wonderful sense of place and folklore. Piscul Dracoli feels rich and real. Despite there being five sisters, each girl manages to stand out as her own character, especially Iulia and Paula. The two main characters, Tatiana and Jena are actually the ones I struggled with, not because they weren't distinct but because they both made me angry at times. The book kept telling me that Jena was sensible, but didn't really show it. For someone who is so sensible and practical, she's not bothered at all by going off into a fairy portal every month and seems overwhelmed by maintaining the house during her father's absence.
Overall my impression is so mixed. I love folklore and I love all the different creatures we get to meet. I love the idea of monthly trips to the Other Kingdom. I enjoyed the struggles of the sisters to remain autonomous in a time when women were considered more property than person. The story, despite being predictable, was enjoyable. At times it hit all the right heartstrings, especially with Jena's pet frog Gogu (who can speak in case you're wondering how a frog hits the heartstrings). He was probably one of the best aspects of this novel. But I'm bothered, particularly by Tatiana's illness, and the predictability of this book. It's probably still worth reading, especially seeing so many other reviewers rave about it, but don't expect a perfect novel because this is by no means perfect.
Fantastic narration. Kim Mai Guest managed to make distinct and different voices for all five sisters, an amazing feat since they were all young girls from the same region without much to differentiate them vocally. The accent was just enough to give the listener a sense of being in Eastern Europe without making the book hard to understand. There was a point in the middle where the accent briefly seemed to lessen, but that could just be my imagination. If you're going to read this audiobook is a great way to go.