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  • Wildwood Dancing
  • Written by Juliet Marillier
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  • Wildwood Dancing
  • Written by Juliet Marillier
    Read by Kim Mai Guest
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On Sale: March 25, 2008
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-375-84944-2
Published by : Knopf Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books

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On Sale: January 13, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7393-7939-4
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

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.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

Chapter One

I’ve heard it said that girls can’t keep secrets. That’s wrong: we’d proved it. We’d kept ours for years and years, ever since we came to live at Piscul Dracului and stumbled on the way into the Other Kingdom. Nobody knew about it—not Father, not our housekeeper, Florica, or her husband, Petru, not Uncle Nicolae or Aunt Bogdana or their son, Cezar. We found the portal when Tati was seven and I was six, and we’d been going out and coming in nearly every month since then: nine whole years of Full Moons. We had plenty of ways to cover our absences, including a bolt on our bedchamber door and the excuse that my sister Paula sometimes walked in her sleep.

I suppose the secret was not completely ours; Gogu knew. But even if frogs could talk, Gogu would never have told. Ever since I’d found him long ago, crouched all by himself in the forest, dazed and hurt, I had known I could trust him more than anyone else in the world.

It was the day of Full Moon. In the bedchamber our gowns and shoes were laid out ready; combs, bags, and hair ornaments were set beside them. Nothing would be touched now, until the household was safely in bed. Fortunately, it was rare for Florica to come up to our room, because it was at the top of a flight of stairs, and stairs made her knees hurt. I did wonder how much Florica knew or guessed. She must have noticed how quiet we always were on the night of Full Moon, and how exhausted we were when we stumbled down to breakfast the next morning. But if she knew, Florica didn’t say a thing.

During the day we kept up our normal activities, trying not to arouse suspicion. Paula helped Florica cook fish ciorb?a, while Iulia went out to lend a hand to Petru, who was storing away sacks of grain to last us over the winter. Iulia did not enjoy the hard work of the farm, but at least, she said, it made the time go more quickly. Tati was teaching Stela to read: I had seen the two of them ensconced in a warm corner of the kitchen, making letters in a tray of wet sand.

I sat in the workroom with Father, reconciling a set of orders with a record of payments. I was good with figures and helped him regularly with such tasks. The merchant business in which he was a partner with his cousin, whom we called Uncle Nicolae, kept the two of them much occupied. Gogu sat on the desk, keeping himself to himself, though once or twice I caught his silent voice—the one only I could hear.

You’re upset, Jena.

“Mmm,” I murmured, not wanting to get into a real conversation with him while both Father and his secretary, Gabriel, were in the room. My family didn’t truly believe that I sometimes knew what Gogu was thinking. Even my sisters, who had long ago accepted that this was no ordinary frog, thought that I was deluding myself—putting my own words into the frog’s mouth, perhaps. I knew that was wrong. I’d had Gogu since I was a small girl, and the things he told me definitely didn’t come from my own head.

Don’t be sad. Tonight is Full Moon.

“I can’t help it, Gogu. I’m worried. Now hush, or Father will hear me.”

Father was trying to write a letter. He kept coughing, and in between bouts he struggled to catch his breath. Tomorrow he would be leaving on a journey to the port of Constan¸ta, in the milder climate of the Black Sea coast. His doctor had told him, sternly, that if he tried to get through another winter at Piscul Dracului in his present ill health, he would be dead before the first buds opened on the oaks. We five sisters would be looking after the place on our own, right through the winter. Of course, Uncle Nicolae would help with the business, and Florica and Petru with the house and farm. It was not so much the extra responsibility that troubled me. Father was away often enough on business and we had coped before, though not for so long. What chilled me was the thought that when we said goodbye in the morning, it might be forever.

At supper we were all quiet. I was thinking about what Father had confided to Tati and me earlier. Up till then, none of us had mentioned the possibility that Father might die of this illness, for to say that aloud would be to put the unthinkable into words. But Father had wanted his eldest daughters to be prepared for whatever might happen. Should he die before any of us girls married and bore a son, he’d explained, both Piscul Dracului and Father’s share of the business would go to Uncle Nicolae, as the closest male relative. We were not to worry. If the worst should occur, Uncle Nicolae would see we were provided for.

Uncle Nicolae’s family home was called Vârful cu Negur?a: Storm Heights. His house was quite grand, set on a hillside and surrounded by birch and pine forest. He ran a prosperous farm and a timber business, as well as the trading ventures that had made him wealthy. When we were little, we had lived in the merchant town of Bra¸sov, and Vârful cu Negur?a had been a place we visited as a special treat. It was hard to say what I had loved best about it: the dark forest, the forbidden lake, or the excitement of playing with our big cousins, who were both boys.

But there was no doubt at all what Father had loved. Next door to Vârful cu Negur?a was Piscul Dracului, Devil’s Peak. Father had first seen the empty, crumbling castle, set on a high spur of rock, when he was only a boy. Our father was an unusual kind of person, and as soon as he clapped eyes on Piscul Dracului he wanted to live there. There’d been nobody to inherit the ruin and the tract of wildwood that went with it; perhaps the many strange tales attached to the place had frightened people away. The owner had died long ago. Florica and Petru had been custodians of the place for years, looking after the empty chambers and eking out a living from the small farm, for they were hardworking, thrifty folk.

Father had waited a long time to achieve his dream. He had worked hard, married, and fathered daughters, bought and sold, scrimped and saved. When he’d set enough silver aside from his merchant ventures, trading in silk carpets and bear skins, spices and fine porcelain, he’d quietly paid a large sum to an influential voivode, gone into partnership with Uncle Nicolae, and moved our family into Piscul Dracului.

I think Mother would have preferred to stay in Bra¸sov, for she feared the tales folk told about the old castle. It looked as if it had grown up out of the forest, with an assortment of bits and pieces sprouting from every corner: tiny turrets, long covered walkways, squat round towers, arches, and flagpoles. The eccentric nobleman who had built it had probably been someone just like Father. People seldom ventured into the forest around Piscul Dracului. There was a lake deep within the wildwood, a place unofficially known as the Deadwash, though its real name was prettier: T?aul Ielelor, Lake of the Nymphs. Every family had a dark story about the Deadwash. We got ours soon after we moved into the castle. When I was five years old, my cousin Costi—Uncle Nicolae’s eldest son—drowned in T?aul Ielelor. I was there when it happened. The things folk said about the lake were true.

Before Father became so ill, Tati and I had scarcely given a thought to such weighty matters as what might happen to Piscul Dracului, with no son to inherit our father’s property. My elder sister was a dreamer, and I had a different kind of future in mind for myself: one in which I would work alongside my father, traveling and trading and seeing the world. Marriage and children were secondary in my scheme of things. Now—with Father’s cough ringing in our ears, and his white face regarding us across the supper table—they had become a frightening reality. I remembered Aunt Bogdana saying that sixteen was the ideal age for a young woman to wed. Tati was already in her seventeenth year; I was only one year younger.

Father went off to bed as soon as the meal was over; he’d hardly touched his food. The others disappeared to our bedchamber, but I waited for Florica to bank up the fire in the big stove and for Petru to bolt the front door, and for the two of them to retire to their sleeping quarters. Then it was safe, and I ran up the stairs to our chamber, my worries set aside for now, my heart beating fast with an anticipation that was part joy, part fear. At last it was time.

The long room we sisters shared had four round windows of colored glass: soft violet, blood-red, midnight-blue, beech-green. Beyond them the full moon was sailing up into the night sky. I put Gogu on a shelf to watch as I took off my working dress and put on my dancing gown, a green one that my frog was particularly fond of. Paula was calmly lighting our small lanterns, to be ready for the journey.

With five girls, even the biggest bedchamber can get crowded. As Tati fastened the hooks on my gown, I watched Iulia twirling in front of the mirror. She was thirteen now, and developing the kind of curvaceous figure our Mother had had. Her gown was of cobalt silk and she had swept her dark curls up into a circlet of ribbon butterflies. We had become clever, over the years, in our use of the leftovers from Father’s shipments. He was good at what he did, but buying Piscul Dracului had eaten up a lot of his funds and, even in partnership with his wealthy cousin, he was still making up for lost ground. I saw the books every day—he had been unable to conceal from me that finances remained very tight. We sisters had to improvise. We made one new dancing gown anytime a cargo contained a little more of a certain fabric than the buyer had requested. I wore Tati’s hand-me-downs; Paula wore mine. Iulia, with her fuller figure, did rather better, because she could not fit into either Tati’s clothes or mine. All the same, she complained; she would have liked a whole wardrobe of finery. Tati was clever with her needle, and adjusted old things of Mother’s to fit her. Mother was gone. We had lost her when our youngest sister was born. Stela was only five—easy to dress.


From the Hardcover edition.
Juliet Marillier

About Juliet Marillier

Juliet Marillier - Wildwood Dancing

Photo © Design Images Perth

“Why am I a writer? I write because I can’t not write. It’s frustrating, annoying, rewarding, and absorbing. Most of the time it makes me happy, occasionally it drives me crazy. It’s one of the most solitary and demanding occupations in the world. One of the nice aspects of the job is getting to talk to aspiring young writers. I tell them the best reason to do it is because your heart is in it–because you have stories to tell. Forget about being rich and famous!

“When I’m asked for tips on ‘how to,’ I say no amount of technique can make you a true storyteller. On the other hand, however gifted you are, you need technique to do the job well, so I suggest young writers read widely and acquire a strong foundation in the building blocks of language. You can’t break the rules effectively until you know how to use them.

“In my case, those building blocks came early. I grew up surrounded by books and music, with a strong emphasis on Celtic culture. My birthplace, Dunedin, New Zealand, was a kind of ‘little Edinburgh’ that had been settled by immigrants from Scotland. I read avidly from early childhood. From that developed my lifelong passion for mythology and folklore. The threads of these are strongly woven into my writing. I believe traditional stories provide insights into how to live our lives well and deal bravely with whatever fate throws in our path. They still strike a chord with us, even in this vastly different world. Despite constant change, we still face the same essentials of human experience: love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, the bonds of family and friendship, courage and fear, faith and disillusionment, hope and despair.

“I love to incorporate these high themes and heroic journeys into my work, and that may explain why I write fantasy, which lends itself to this kind of material. But the real heart of everything I write is human drama–the interactions between characters, their choices, their personal growth. That’s one reason the books are set, not in an imagined world, but in our world and in real history. Their magical elements are based on the folklore of the time and place. Most of my protagonists are young men and women dealing with the everyday challenges we recognize from our own lives. Wildwood Dancing, for all its fairytale trappings, is essentially a story of sisterly loyalty and the choices a teenage girl makes as she grows to maturity.”

Juliet Marillier lives in Western Australia. Her first novel was Daughter of the Forest, based on the fairytale The Six Swans. Since then she has written seven more historical fantasy novels for adult readers. Juliet’s books are published internationally and have won a number of awards. Wildwood Dancing is her first book for young adult readers. She is currently working on a sequel, Kybele’s Gift, set in Ottoman Turkey.
Praise | Awards

Praise

Starred review, School Library Journal, February 2007:
"Strong characters, two fully realized settings, and a fast-moving plot guarantee that readers will be spellbound by this page-turner."


From the Hardcover edition.

Awards

WINNER 2008 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
WINNER 2007 Book Sense Book of the Year
WINNER 2007 Kirkus Reviews Editor Choice Award

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