Reviewed February 19, 2013.
A Roc Book (Penguin), 2012. 434 pages. Starred Review
2013 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #3 Fiction
I completely blame Juliet Marillier. Sunday afternoon, I should have gotten a whole lot of organizing and packing done for my impending move. Instead, I read Flame of Sevenwaters. I should have known better than to even start it, since pretty much all of her books have absorbed me to the extent that I forget about trivial things like eating.
This is the sixth book in her stories from Sevenwaters, completing a second trilogy. Each book completes a story, but there is an overarching storyline throughout each trilogy, so the books are best read in order. The second trilogy features three sisters from the household of Sevenwaters.
Flame of Sevenwaters takes place from the viewpoint of Maeve, who was sent away from Sevenwaters as a child to be tended by Aunt Liadan after she was severely burned in a horrible accident in which she tried to save her dog from a fire. Maeve is reconciled to the fact that there's not much she can do, with her fingers that don't bend. The people at Harrowfield are used to her shocking scars, but she's been putting off going back home to Sevenwaters because she can only be an embarrassment at the high table, unable even to feed herself.
However, ten years after the accident, Uncle Bran is sending a fine young horse to her father, in hopes he can use it to placate a local nobleman after his sons and their companions disappeared on Sevenwaters land. Maeve does have a way with animals, and her presence will help calm the horse. The people of Sevenwaters are sure the disappearance is the work of Mac Dara, the powerful fey prince who's the father of Cathal, a man who married one of the daughter's of the house. Cathal's been staying out of Mac Dara's reach, but now it seems a showdown is at hand -- and Maeve, despite herself, is going to be part of that showdown.
At Sevenwaters, Maeve finds two dogs alone in the forest. She slowly wins them over, and wonders where they came from.
This was the first time I had taken the dogs to the keep with me, but we had been practicing against this possibility. They had walked halfway there and back again with me and Rhian several times now. They had learned to stay quiet and calm while Emrys or Donal worked with Swift in the field or on the tracks around the clearing. They had learned not to bark at the cows or the druids. As for sleeping arrangements, I had not been displaced from my bed as Rhian had anticipated. Bear would have slept inside readily, but Badger did not like to be in the cottage when the door was closed. When night fell and Rhian began to secure our abode with shutters and bolts, he always went out to lie on the old sacks beyond the door. Bear would generally cast a sad-eyed look in my direction as he followed, but he would not leave Badger on his own. I had never before seen a dog with eyes of such a remarkable color as Bear's, a mellow, lustrous gold-brown. Against his black coat, now glossy with good care, they were striking indeed.
I thought I'd figured out some patterns to Sevenwaters books, but this one breaks them. And it's a wonderful culmination to the story so far. I sincerely hope this isn't the end.