By Juliet Marillier – Pan Macmillian Australia, 2006
ages 14+ / young adult
Transylvania has long been a land of myth and legend, full of monsters, vampires and all things dark and terrifying. But In Wildwood Dancing it becomes a land of beauty, magic and mystery.
Life is close to perfect for practical Jena and her 4 sisters (beautiful Tati, wise Paula, vivacious Iulia and innocent Stela).
They live in the magnificent Castle Piscul Dracului, surrounded by the beautiful Wildwood, nestled in the Transylvanian mountains - in the care of a loving father and servants.
Life is full of normal everyday things like cooking, working the farm and keeping accounts. But these 5 sisters also posses a wonderful secret – at full moon they cross through a magic portal in their room to go dancing with the folk of the Other Kingdom in the Wildwood:
The boat swept across the Bright Between. As we passed a certain point the air filled with a sweet, whispering music; swarms of small bright creatures that were not quite birds or insects or fairy folk swooped and rose, hovered and dived around us, making a living banner to salute our arrival. Underwater beings swam beside our craft, creatures with large, luminous eyes and long hands, fronded tails and glowing green-blue skin. Many dwelled in or on Tăul Ielelor: ragged swimmers resembling weedy plants, their gaze turned always up, up to the surface; the beguiling pale figures of the Iele, from whom the lake got its name, reaching out graceful white arms from bank or islet, or overhanging willow. Should an unwary man from our world be passing, they would seek to entice him from his path forever. As we neared the opposite shore, an assortment of tiny folk rowed out from the miniature island to join us in a bobbing flotilla of boats made from nutshells and dried leaves and discarded carapaces of beetles. We reached the far shore and my escort, who was three feet high and almost as wide with a scarlet beard down to his boot-tops, handed me out and made a low bow.
But nothing stays perfect forever and, as the girls get older, things start to go wrong.
Their father gets sick and has to go away - their cousin Cezar doesn’t think that 5 girls can take care of themselves - and the oldest sister Tati falls in love in the worst possible place.
Jena is at a loss. She tries her hardest to keep things together, but when her best friend, her pet frog Gogu, turns out to be more than just a frog, and potentially dangerous to her and her sisters, she must make the ultimate decision between following her head or her heart.
This is an enchanting story of adventurous sisters, dark creatures, magical gifts and love in all its forms. Brilliantly told and wonderfully written, Wildwood Dancing is a must-read if you love anything fay or fractured fairytales (it's loosely based on the Princess and the Frog) or just beautifully written stories.
Wildwood Dancing is followed by Cybele's Secret where we get to join Jena’s younger sister Paula on another adventure into the Other Kingdom!