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Top Notch YA Fantasy | Book Review: Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

If you love YA fantasy, you need to read Wildwood Dancing.

Book Review: Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

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wildwood dancing julie marillier book review

Title & Author: Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Fairytale Retelling

Release Date: January 23, 2007

Series: Wildwood #1

Publisher: Knopf

How I Got the Book: Bought


“High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It’s an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle’s hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.

But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he’s there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena’s sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom–an impossible union it’s up to Jena to stop.
When Cezar’s grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can’t imagine–tests of trust, strength, and true love. ”

Top of the TBR

I have often waxed poetic poetic about one of my most read and most loved authors, Juliet Marillier. And yet…somehow I had not read her first venture into YA – her Wildwood duology.

Well, I’ve finally fixed that, and I’m here to report back.

First thoughts: Why did I wait so long?! Wildwood Dancing is a absolute top notch fantasy book.

As a quick rundown – This story is a loose retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses story. There are only five sisters/princesses in Wildwood Dancing, but for the purposes of Marillier’s work, it doesn’t actually matter.

The five sisters we are given each have their own distinct personalities and quirks. Wildwood Dancing focuses on Jena, the second eldest sister who’s best friend is her frog Gogu and who accompanies her sisters to the Other Kingdom – complete with fae creatures – on every full moon.

What I loved best is the world created. The magic is mysterious and inventive and whimsical. I just wanted it all to be real so badly.

Plus the characters are fully fleshed out – Jena and her sisters, as well as other key characters, are rich with details like ambitions, tragedies and vices. Marillier draws characters in the most engaging way.

While this story has been retold many times, I didn’t feel like I was reading something I already knew by heart. Marillier made this story fully her own, adding layers and depth that didn’t exist before.

About the romance – SWOON. There are few book romances where I wouldn’t change anything…but I would definitely say that about Wildwood Dancing. It was perfect for me as is.

The best part? There is a follow-up companion book called Cybele’s Secret. It’s not a sequel; it focuses on a different sister’s story from this book. I’m reviewing it next!


It just comes down to this – if you love fantasy, magic, family bonds, romance and feeling connected while reading, you should read literally anything by Juliet Marillier. And at the top should be Wildwood Dancing.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.
  • Wildwood Dancing was my introduction to Juliet Marillier, and it remains one of my top 5 novels ever. LOVE. So glad you finally got a chance to read it!