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Twixt Firelight and Water (Sevenwaters, #5.5)

Twixt Firelight and Water (Sevenwaters, #5.5) - Juliet Marillier A weird Sevenwaters spin-off story, in which Fiacha turns out to be Oonagh's older son whom she turned into a raven because she's eeeeeevil and because he guided Liam to finding kid Ciaran, and the only way for Fiacha to break the curse is marrying a Sevenwaters woman. The long-lost Padriac's daughter Aisha shows up in the woods and grown-up Ciaran offers to "guide" her back to the keep but actually leads her around in circles until she agrees to marry the raven, aka Conri. There's some more kids-are-the-best-thing-ever-and-everyone-must-want-them preaching (good lord. All Marillier's heroines have married and had kids and I had no problem with that. But lately she's taken to introducing female characters who say they don't want marriage/kids only to have other characters try to convince them otherwise and the women finally fall in love and "see the light" and decide that's what they do want after all. Only evil women don't love/want babies in Marillier world). Then everyone lives happily ever after. Or something.

Also, Aisha is black, but nobody minds because Sevenwaters exists in an alternate version of medieval Ireland in which interracial marriages routinely pass without comment (this is, like, the fourth?), gay men live together openly and the only reason women don't have careers is because they all really, really want to be homemakers.

Marillier describes this story in the Afterword as "brimful with courage, hope and love" and that's pretty accurate. In a recycled, manipulative kind of way.

Remember when her books were actually dark? When Colum was a lousy father and Sorcha's beloved dad and older brothers tortured a kid for being a spy? When Liadan realized her sister was being abused but couldn't turn to anyone in her family for help because they'd forced Niamh into marriage without ever explaining why? When Fainne could never bond with anyone for fear Oonagh would kill them? When, yes, there were (mostly) happy endings but there was enough pain and suffering along the way to make them feel meaningful rather than saccharine? When you genuinely worried for the characters? God I miss those days.

I dunno, I keep reading this Sevenwaters stuff because I loved the original trilogy that much--I can't even tell you how many times I re-read those books during my teenage years and even in college. Seer is the only Marillier story before this that I've genuinely disliked and I was sort of able to write that one off since she wrote it during cancer treatment. And I do think I'll read the next one because I'm interested in Maeve. But this story makes me more apprehensive and if Flame of Sevenwaters turns out to be like this, it'll be time to for me to jump off the Marillier bandwagon for good.