Juliet Marillier’s “Heir to Sevenwaters”

31JSQpzMt2L._SL160_ Juliet Marillier’s “Heir to Sevenwaters” would probably have made it into my favourites of 2008 if Amazon had delivered the book a day or so earlier.  After finally getting around to reading “Daughter of the Forest”, and following it with “Son of the Shadows” and “Child of the Prophecy” (which easily claims the Best Trilogy I read in 2008 spot), I was looking forward to HtS and returning to Ms Marillier’s Sevenwaters world.

I’m not going to review it because it’s one of those books that I like so irrationally that writing it up is near-impossible, but I wanted to talk about a few points.


SPOILERS BELOW – you have been warned!






1) The cover.  I love the UK cover.  Not only do we get to see Clodagh (holding Becan!) and Dog Mask on the front, we get Cathal* on the back (Ms Marillier’s website has pictures here).  And I think the artist captured the dangerous and brooding Cathal perfectly.  Here’s the full picture on the artist’s website (Jon Sullivan), with links to detail and close ups.  The more I look at it, the more I am impressed.  There is such attention to detail, and reflects the story’s feel so perfectly.  I’m thinking Mr Sullivan must have read the book before painting the cover.

The only thing I would say is Clodagh’s hair on the actual cover is a highly unnatural red.  In the online cover images, it is toned down a tad, which looks more realistic.  Having said that, the hair does add the bright splash of colour that I think the cover needs, else it would be too dull (the actual cover is slightly darker than the online pics as well). 


2) The fact that the book focused so tightly on Clodagh and Cathal.  If you had asked me who I would have liked as the main protagonist of HtS, Clodagh would probably have been near the bottom of the list.  And in a way, Ms Marillier uses that to her advantage, making Clodagh, who is defined as having a talent for “… housewifely skills, washing and cooking, that kind of thing” (p.7) into the heroine of the book, where her good sense and yes, housewifely skills, turn what could be a tragedy into a triumph.

Also, Ms Marillier mentions in several articles that she purposely downplayed some of the existing characters, including Sean and Aisling, in order to make this Clodagh and Cathal’s book, and also to make sure HtS could work as a standalone. 

I have mixed feelings on this.  On one hand, I have moaned about books where every single character from previous books pops in to pass the time, so I can totally appreciate Ms Marillier working to make HtS a standalone.  And I would wholeheartedly agree that some of her previous characters are so strong that they can steal the scene without meaning to.

But I wish we had seen more of Aisling.  I still don’t feel as though I have a grip on her character, or why Sean loves her so much.  I would also have loved to have found out how Fainne was doing – I think her book, “Child of the Prophecy”, was probably my favourite** of the original Sevenwaters trilogy.











3) So Johnny’s gay.  I did think it meant the question of inheritance was resolved very tidily, and I’d not actually considered his sexuality beforehand, but Gareth??  I thought Gareth had a thing for Fainne*** from the previous book, and I went back and re-read the relevant chapters of CotP, and I still think he fancied Fainne.  Or maybe that was Fainne’s interpretation.  Hmmm…

In CoTP, when we first encounter Johnny, I think Fainne, and the reader by extension, views him very much as an asexual being.  Partly because she’s slightly wary and in awe of him, and partly because she only has eyes for Darragh.  Therefore as far as his sexuality goes, it was pretty much a blank slate, IMO.

If I’d read HtS as a standalone, I would have not questioned the relationship at all, because it was set up from the start of the book and did feel right in the context of HtS, but having finished CotP only a few days earlier, I found myself wondering if Ms Marillier knew Johnny was gay in the previous book, or only decided on this in HtS.

Ms Marillier blogged about reader responses to this here and said (X and Y being used to avoid spoilers):

The third reader response troubled me. One or two people thought this development was not right for the character – they saw it as inconsistent with the way I’d written X in the earlier books. Now, a writer never likes to hear that her characterization isn’t working for readers, especially when good characterization is a particular feature of her storytelling.  I couldn’t quite work out why anyone would say this about X, because the bond between X and Y was there from quite early on, though it could at that stage have been no more than close friendship.

I think if Fainne hadn’t mentioned Gareth in particular as paying attention to her, and interpreted his reaction to Darragh joining the gang as jealousy or resentment at having more competition for her attentions, then I wouldn’t have thought twice about this.  It’s more the choice of Gareth as Johnny’s lover, than Johnny himself, that made me raise an eyebrow.


4) Aidan’s death.  I don’t have a particular fondness for fairies, fey, or whatever you want to call them, and I think this is one of the reasons why.  It’s their lack of humanity combined with almost unlimited powers, and how they can so easily perpetrate irreversible actions without understanding the emotional cost.  I completely felt for Cathal when Mac Dara killed Aidan just to prove a point, especially under the circumstances, but I think it was one of the events that made the story so right.  It showed not just how inhuman the Otherworld folk are, but also what Mac Dara was capable of doing.

What I do regret though, is that we never did find out more about Aidan and whether he would have truly made a good husband for Clodagh, or if his rages were a symptom of something darker.



Right, I’m done.  Any thoughts on any or all of these?


* Is it the romance reader in me, or did everyone else instantly know Cathal would be the hero of HtS?  From the moment he uttered his first words on p.6, I knew.

** Though Fainne/Darragh isn’t my favourite h/h pairing – that’s a tie between Sorcha/Red and Liadan/Bran.

*** I only realised Fainne was pronounced “Faun-ya” after I finished “Child of the Prophecy” and visited Ms Marillier’s website, so I keep mentally pronouncing her name as “Fayne”.  And then correct myself.  Arrghh.  Does anyone else do that?


30 thoughts on “Juliet Marillier’s “Heir to Sevenwaters”

    • I have yet to read the trilogy because I didn’t know it existed. I picked HtS because of the artwork on the cover. It was sitting pretty on the New Arrival shelf in my Library a few days ago. I read it in a day and a half.

      I had NO judgments about this book. I have to tell you I LOVED IT. In that right it was totally a stand alone novel, because I didn’t feel as though I was missing too much from the Sevenwaters Trilogy, because I didn’t know I had to. I felt like enough was briefly covered to give me a good background.

      On that note, Juliet has a new fan in me! I am going to read the Trilogy now because of HtS. I LOVED Clodagh and Cahtal. I pretty mucy knew right away the romance in the book was going to be them….and as a housewife w/ curly red hair in real life….I must say I was a bit delighted that a domestic goddess can be a heroine too. 😉 Thanks for your review. I simply cannot wait to delve into Sevenwaters territory now.

      • Erintopia – Oh, it’s interesting hearing from someone who hasn’t read the original trilogy, good to know that Heir completely works as a standalone. The cover is stunning, IMO – it’s perfect for the book. And I am pretty sure you’re going to love the other Sevenwaters books, they are all on my keeper shelf.

  1. Yay! I’m so happy you loved these books. I adore them and HtS was such an unexpected treat when I thought the trilogy ended it all. And that UK Cover? So awesome. Might need to find me a copy.

    I agree. I loved Clodagh more than I was expecting to and I saw (and really hoped) Cathal would be the hero from their first meeting. I was surprised by the new info on Johnny. I felt both of the first two reactions Ms. Marillier mentions in that blog post, I think. I had forgotten about the Gareth/Fainne connection. But I have to say I did sort of like the pairing with Gareth. They just seemed to fit. I did think of Johnny’s parents a few times, though. Wondering how they felt about it.

    I really liked (in a hateful way) Mac Dara and I hope we someday get a book where Ciaran confronts him, because I thought the hint at that eventual confrontation was tantalizing.

    I’m glad to hear you loved CotP so much. I don’t think it gets as much love as it deserves sometimes. Although, if pressed, I usually end up saying SotS is my favorite. Liadan/Bran….perfect.

  2. Kailana – The first book sat in my TBR pile for over a year! I have no idea why I left it there for so long. It is definitely worth reading for when you’re in the mood for historical fantasy. Or even if you’re not 😉

  3. Angie – It was the ending of CotP that made it win out over the previous two for me. I liked the way the prophecy was interpreted and how everything worked out. And you’re right, Liadan and Bran are just perfect.

    I read somewhere that she *might* write another Sevenwaters book to tie up the Mac Dara and Ciaran storyline, that would be excellent if she did. If she does, I don’t care who she chooses as the main protagonist 🙂

    I had just finished CotP, therefore the Gareth/Fainne interaction was still pretty strong in my mind. Though I suppose that he could swing both ways…

    It’s interesting that it was mentioned (towards the end of HtS, I think) that Johnny’s sexuality may be the reason for Aisling’s ambiguity towards him being named as heir (and the future line of inheritance), and not the fact he was taking the place of her child. I like to think his parents are open-minded enough – esp Bran – to love him for who he is, but possibly have been ever so slightly worried about the implications and are relieved at Finbar’s arrival.

    And I think it’s a good thing I don’t write fanfiction 😉

  4. Oh man, I’ve had Daughter of the Forrest in my TBR shelf for ages! It looked so good, and, as usual, once it hit the shelf, there it stayed.

    Looks like time to dust it off!

  5. Li, I really enjoy reading your posts, and I am so glad that you like the Sevenwaters books. I lived in Ireland for many years and have many Irish friends, and so the pronunciation of Fainne (not a name I am familiar with) to me rhymed with Grainne (pronounced Gro-nia – I happen to have a friend with this name). I can’t remember if a pronunciation guide is given for Cathal (pronounced “Ca-hal” – no T sound). Pronunciation of less common Gaelic names can be difficult (e.g. Sean is a common one most people know, as is Siobhan [shee-von], but I don’t personally know anyone called Niamh spelt that way anymore).

    All of Juliet Marillier’s books are marvellous. Wildwood Dancing and Cybele’s Secret also have beautiful detailed covers by Kinuko Craft. I particularly love the 2 books of the Saga of the Light Isles (Wolfskin and Foxmask) and the tale of true friendship and heartbreak. I think those are darker than the Sevenwater books.

    I too felt the reveal about Johnny was out of place. Aisling was never really fleshed out even in Son of the Shadows. I truly can’t decide which is my favourite Sevenwaters book – they are all wonderful in their own way. Clodagh on the surface seems to be the least supernaturally “gifted” of all the heroines – but Marillier is such a good writer that you are convinced that even housewifely gifts are equal to magical gifts!

  6. Renee – Between Ana and myself, I’m hoping we can persuade you to read DotF because it is honestly worth it.

    Msaggie – Thanks for commenting! I can manage Niamh – because there was a reality TV show contestant named Niamh (yes, I know, but hey, it obviously helped me expand my general knowledge *blushes*). But Fainne was a difficult one for me.

    I have Cybele’s Secret as my next Marillier book, but I’m now wondering if I should read Wolfskin/Foxmask next.

    I agree Aisling wasn’t given enough page time earlier either, she’s always been someone’s sweetheart or friend or sister or wife. Though there was a paragraph or two in HtS that tried to sketch her out a bit more, something about how the household had seen her grow up (probably paraphrasing horribly here), but she doesn’t come across as a very sympathetic character, IMO.

    I’m glad I’m not the only person really into this series 🙂

    Ana – *dancing with joy* Am so glad you loved DotF!!! It was a definite A in my book as well. Will you review the others once you read them?

    Nath – Read 😀

  7. Li, if you have Cybele’s Secret, you should read Wildwood Dancing first, as it’s the second book in the series. Cybele’s Secret is standalone, but it’s a much richer reading experience if you read it chronologically. Both these are YA books, and though they are good, I prefer all of Marillier’s other books which are “meatier” (is there such a word?)

    I much prefer the UK/Australian covers of Wolfskin and Foxmask to the US ones. There is a significant amount of mythology in the Saga of the Light Isles books (similar to Sevenwaters). The Bridei Chronicles are also very good, and contain more druidic elements than Sevenwaters. I particularly like Blade of Fortriu (Book 2), but you also should read them in chronological order. Happy reading!

  8. msaggie – I didn’t realise Cybele’s Secret was part of a series. I definitely want to read Wildwood Dancing first then – thanks for the heads up!

    Now I can’t decide which series to read next… decisions, decisions. Definitely the sort of dilemma I like 🙂

  9. AHhh I didn’t want to read the entire post because I was afraid of spoilers lol. I have this novel out from the library right now and I can’t wait to read it!

  10. Pingback: Please write at least seven books for the Sevenwaters series Juliet Marillier! « *always*dream*

  11. Well … when I red the interview and the news, that some character will be homosexual, my first choice was definitely Johnny. So I wasn´t surprised at all, when that really happened. Suppose I can sniff such things out. ^^
    Of course it could have also been one of Sean´s daugthers … but I was quite sure, that it will be a man, not a woman.

    I don´t think, that making Johnny gay is inappropriate. Why should it be? It´s something different, from the other pairings, the author writes about.
    And that fact makes the story for me a little bit (!) more exciting.

    “Heir to Sevenwaters” is my fovourite book of the Sevenwaters cycle. Then “Child of Prophecy” … “Daughter of Forest” … “Son of Shadows”.

    But Juliet Marillier is my absolute favourite author, so I love all her books, that were published till now ( in Germany ). ^^

    PS: Sorry for eventually bad grammar, but english´not my mother tongue.

    • Seraphina – I avoided all spoilers before reading this book, so the reveal came as a surprise to me! Not sure I would have guessed even if I had read the interviews though.

  12. Hello everyone,
    I have to say your UK cover is a bit better than ours over here, I prefer it. But what do they say about not judging a book by its cover.
    I first read Daughter of the Forest many moons ago I think I was 16 or younger at the time (I’m now 21) I waited…and check bn.com so many times to see when the next book was out and drove 1.5 hrs to get to barnes and noble where I had told the person who held it for me if it wasn’t there when I arrived there would be hell to pay.
    But I’ve been dreading the end of this series. I’ve attempted to distract myself with other books and series and it does work but sometimes I just wanna have one of my “comfort” books and these are it along with Tamora Pierces Immortals series (which was also from when I was younger).
    I was wondering if anyone had any more authors that are similar to Juliet? I love the history and myth mixed with the subtle romance that even though I know its going to happen the tension…ohh the tension. 🙂
    So I ‘d lovet o check out whatever anyone has to offer.

    I agree with whoever said that the Sevenwaters trilogy should have 7 books…it only makes sense! 🙂

    Happy New Year!

    • Hey Margie – Happy New Year to you too! And yay, another Marillier fan!

      Not sure if you already know, but Juliet Marillier’s releasing another Sevenwaters book at the end of 2010, so ummm… only another 12 months to go 😉

      For similar fantasy w/romance recs, I’m going to suggest Kristin Cashore’s “Graceling” and “Fire” – I just read “Fire” and it completely blew me away. And there is subtle romance aplenty. I also love Sharon Shinn’s “Summer at Castle Auburn”, which again is fantasy with a sweet romance. Also her Twelve Houses series is lovely.

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  14. I have to say that I’m the opposite of you – Daughter of the Forest has to be my favourite, but Fainne and Darragh are my favourite couple. Followed by Sorcha and Red, then Liadan and Bran. Even though I hate for them to be last, because I absolutely adore the part where Bran says that Liadan is his light in the darkness, and Johnny is his pathway ahead.
    Johnny being gay makes me really sad. Not because I’m homophobic, I’m actually quite pro-gay rights. But I just feel sad that he’ll never have any children, and that we won’t get a book all about him and his romance, I’m guessing. I always found Liadan’s children much more interesting than Sean and Aisling’s, mainly because I hate both Sean and Aisling, and I want books on them and their love lifes. And I also would have liked something on Fainne (I’m the same as you, I pronounced it Fain and now I know it’s pronounced Faun-ya I find it really hard. Same with Sibeal as Shibal.) I hope we get a book on Fainne’s children.

    • Hey Lauren – I don’t think Sean and Aisling ever got much page time, and I never really connected with them. I loved Liadan as well. Have you read her latest Sevenwaters book? There is some reference to Liadan, but not enough! I don’t think I’ve heard anything on a new Sevenwaters book, but am keeping my fingers crossed.

  15. OMG……when I found out that there was a 4th and 5th book, I had to read them, I just finished reading Heir to Sevenwaters and about to start the 5th book. I love this series, first read Daughter of The Forest at my high school library, and loved it, and by that time all three books were there, I’m now 20, I really liked DoTF, and I also liked the 2nd book, I can tell u that it did surprised me that Johnny was gay, I guess because I wasent paying much attention to their characters and I can image that being gay back in those times was probably harder, and they would have had to keep it to them self. In the book they mention Johnny and Gareth being very good friends , for a second I taught Cathal and Aidan were more then friends. I guess what made me sad like someone else had said previously, is that Johnny isint going to have kids, or get married, but as long as Johnny and Gareth are happy together everything is good 🙂 it was also sad that Aidan was killed, I wanted to read imore about him:( When I was reading DoTF I was thinking that a movie of it would be awesome or maybe a tv series, I would image that it’ll be on syfy, but I still think it would be cool, anyway love, love, love, these books 🙂

  16. There was one thing that I don’t understand. Why was Cathal telling (warning) Clodagh to stay away from Aidan. I would understand it if Cathal warned her of him. Was it just because of his temper? And he didn’t what to see her get hurt? That’s why I taught Cathal and Aidan were more then just friends, cuz Cathal really wanted her to stay away. Hehe but yeah I did see Clodagh and Cathal being together

    • LOL @ your interpretation! It’s been quite a while since I’ve read HtS, but from what I can remember, I think it was because Cathal knew Aidan had a dark side, and yes, he didn’t want Clodagh to be hurt (though I think there was an element of jealousy there too).

      There is more of Johnny/Gareth in the fifth book, and it is a fascinating partnership.

      And I have no idea how they would translate the sheer epic-ness of DotF to screen, but if they did, yeah, it has the potential to be very very good.

  17. I think Gareth’s interest in Fainne was an atempt to make Johnny notice him. Their [Johnny and Gareth’s] story would be very interesting to read.

  18. Hah – I love that interpretation!

    Have you read the latest Sevenwaters book? There are glimpses of Johnny/Gareth’s relationship, which are fascinating.

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