Daughter of the Forest is set in Ireland in the middle ages. It operates in a historic context with war and animosity already thick between the tribes in Ireland and the petty kingdoms of Britain. This is not historical fiction, however, and it can most easily be characterized as a fable.
The narrator and protagonist of the story is Sorcha the youngest daughter among 6 older brothers. Sorcha and her brothers are tight and they have a somewhat enchanted and free existence safe and sheltered in the confines of their homestead surrounded by a protective forest still alive with fairy folk. Their happy childhood ends when their father is bespelled by an enchantress and all of Sorcha’s brothers are cursed. Sorcha must embark upon a seemingly impossible task if she wants to lift the curse from her brothers.
This book was all about storytelling and it is done well by Juliet Marillier. The pace was almost perfect allowing you the time to get to know characters and enjoy the well-painted scenery but moving the plot on just as it was beginning to get dull. The characters, which are fairly numerous, are all well developed and distinct. The task Sorcha is put to is sufficiently arduous that I was kept worried or curious how it was going to end. The relationship between the siblings, and the character of the brothers is so well presented that there is never any questioning of whether what Sorcha goes through is worth it. The end was, for me at least, intensely bittersweet.
I really enjoyed the storytelling in this book and am glad that it was only the first in a trilogy. It is not terribly original or creative, there is not a lot of world building but it was an engrossing story that provoked some thinking and was a lot of fun to curl up with at the end of the day.