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*Wildwood Dancing* by Juliet Marillier- young adult book review

Wildwood Dancing
by Juliet Marillier
Grades 7-9 416 pages Knopf January 2007 Hardcover    

Just a glimpse at the cover of the novel Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier will assure the reader that the pages within contain the same mythical fairy-tale qualities of her previous releases such as the “Sevenwaters Trilogy,” but Wildwood Dancing is Marillier’s first young adult novel. That’s not to say that her other novels like Daughter of the Forest or Wolfskin are strictly out of the realm of young adult interest, but Wildwood Dancing contains a milder undertone that may serve as a gateway for a younger audience to become enchanted with Marillier’s florid fantasy.

For nine years, Piscul Dracului has provided a portal into the Other Kingdom for Jena and her sisters: Tati, Paula, Iulia, and Stela. Nearly every full moon, the five siblings have journeyed into a land of magic and gaiety called Dancing Glade, where humans cavort with dwarves and forest dwellers under the approval of Ileana, queen of the forest people. Jena, however, has never been a stranger to the enchanted. Her constant companion is a frog with the gift of communication called Gogu. Gogu, with his gentle advice and interjections that only Jena can hear, escorts her wherever she may venture, including to the monthly festivities at Dancing Glade.

This time, however, Ileana has seen fit to invite unfamiliar guests to the celebration. Jena knows these guests, called the Night People, to be a dangerous breed that cannot be trusted. Ileana seems to think their presence poses no danger, and Jena’s older sister Tati has become infatuated with one of their brood who goes by the name of Sorrow. But Jena’s troubles are only just beginning to surface.

Jena’s father, a merchant, must travel away on business and is leaving the management of Piscul Dracului to Jena and Tati. If need arises, their uncle Nicolae and cousin Cezar live nearby and will be able to respond. Unfortunately, a terrible hunting accident claims the life of Nicolae and leaves Cezar in control of his own estate. Cezar is not content with controlling his own holdings and quickly snatches Piscul Dracului from Jena’s hands. Jena tries desperately to send word to her father, but she receives no response. Faced with the possibility that her father may never return, Jena must devise a plan to keep Cezar from retaining permanent ownership of Piscul Dracului.

The leader of the Night People, Tadeusz, is all too aware of Jena’s misgivings regarding Cezar’s control. He seductively offers a solution to Jena’s problems, but as Jena will come to know, everything comes at a price. Tadeusz’s interference leaves a young girl dead and sends Cezar on a rampage to eliminate the creatures of the Other Kingdom and the entirety of Wildwood. Can the sisters of Piscul Dracului preserve the lives of their otherworldly friends and, in turn, save themselves?

Wildwood Dancing presents the reader with an interesting enigma. Who is more dangerous to Jena and her sisters: the morose Night People, or the rapacious cousin who boils with plans of revenge?

As with Marillier’s other works, a much-needed pronunciation guide and glossary are included at the back of the book. Her own research and efforts to keep the lore of the Transylvania area historically accurate provide the novel with a rewarding authenticity. Wildwood Dancing is another literary gem from author Juliet Marillier.

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  Sabrina Williams/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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