This is a lovely fairytale of a merchant family in Transylvania; the father is a tolerant man who indulges his five daughters [Tatiana, Jenica, Paula, Iulia, and Stela] in education and speaking their minds with Jena helping her father with his business by keeping the accounts. This particular winter, their father must move to a warmer city if he is to have a chance at the life the cold of their home threatens to take.
This tale’s events began when Costi, Cezar, and Jena were playing a game in the woods some years ago and each wanted a major role to play. Costi, the eldest and brother to Cezar, cousin to Jena, wanted to be the King of the Lake while Cezar wanted to be King of the Land, and Jena wished to be the Queen of the Fairies. That very day their wishes came true when Costi died attempting to rescue Jena when the raft she was on floated away. Jena’s dream resulted in Ileana, queen of the Wildwood, allowing the sisters to secretly visit the Other World at Full Moon where they danced the night away. Cezar became the eldest, and only, son who would inherit everything when his father, Nicolae, died. That same year, when Costi died, Jena found a frog almost dead in the forest. Naming him Gogu, he became her constant companion riding her shoulder or in her pocket, sleeping on her pillow at night.
Now, with their father far from the girls, his own father dead in a hunting accident, Cezar begins to exert his power over his Uncle Teodor’s family. Finally, someone would take control over their unorthodox education and the indulgences granted them by their father…indulgences that were beyond what was proper. This was Cezar’s chance to force the girls to learn proper behavior as he took over their lives. Taking the account books from Jena, lodging complaints against Paula’s tutor so that the church removed Father Sandu from his post, removing the merchandise stored at Piscul Dracului, their home. Cezar also had his eye on Jena and taking away her pet frog, Gogu. Jena he wanted for himself. The frog. Well, the frog was not a proper pet for a girl/woman. Even worse, Cezar wanted to destroy the Other World having hated it for taking his brother, Costi, away from him.
The girls are angry, furious, and powerless against Cezar. Their messages to their father don’t seem to be getting through to him—it is Cezar’s messengers taking their letters after all. They can only warn Ileana and her people of Cezar’s plans. And those plans and the rest of Cezar’s tyranny are only a part of Jena’s worries for Tati has fallen in love with Sorrow, a member of the Night People’s court. Terrified of Sorrow and his influence on her sister, Jena struggles to learn more of Sorrow’s role with these blood-sucking creatures.
A beautiful and compelling story that had my hackles raised. How dare Cezar bully the girls, their servants, the villagers? How could no one see what was happening? How could they tolerate this? And Queen Ileana? I was appalled at her reaction to the girls’ warnings and yet her response made sense. Life must progress and to take action against someone’s threats can create even larger problems. The kinds of problems Cezar was creating.
I loved the results of the traditional kiss of transformation; it was rather difficult not to see it coming if one pays attention to Jena’s dialogs with Gogu. And how very useful that turned out to be for Jena, having a witness to most of her life.
Excellent, excellent story that was extremely difficult to put down.
The cover is very Patricia McKillip with its jeweled tones depicting the dancing in the Wildwood and its lacquered effect giving the whole a fairytale feel.