Review of Juliet Marillier’s A Dance with Fate

A Dance with Fate by Juliet Marillier

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(I’m still traumatized over Ms. Marillier caving to the present tense abomination. I don’t know that I can recover)

The classic elements of a traditional tale (three tales?) appear throughout the book; there’s nothing to fault there. The problem is that none of the stories are particularly remarkable. And that’s so unlike Ms. Marillier’s usual work, it brought me to tears. I spent the final pages checking for a footnote or admission that a ghostwriter tackled the project. SOMEONE else needed to step forward and admit to the abomination.
Liobhan’s story lacks any true drama. The potential is there, with every suggestion of danger and risk. Then the building tidal wave collapses and rolls into shore as nothing more than a ripple. I won’t deny the damage wrought, but it’s minor in comparison to the possibilities. Previous characters in this world have undergone so much worse, emerging the stronger for it. Why did Ms. Marillier hesitate this time?

Everyone knew Dau’s resolution from the beginning. How could a reader not, given the presence of the Otherworld? But to lack a true journey with tasks? It bordered on deus ex machina. He wandered aimlessly through his story, with no lessons learned, no strength gained, and no acceptance of his life. The Otherworld doesn’t offer rewards on those terms – not without terms attached.

Even Brocc’s part of the tale felt lackluster. Misery atop misery – without justification. While the suggestion remains of a third book to the trilogy, it’s difficult for a reader to WANT to continue the tale. Brocc’s made his bed and must lie in it. Yet no one wants him to. You feel sympathy and regret for his decisions – all of them. He’s erred every step of the way.

It’s beautifully written (no one can deny that), but the storytelling fails. And that’s the most difficult thing to come to terms with.

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