Disclaimer: I cheated -- I've really enjoyed this series so I bought this book with some of my Christmas money.
Seer of Sevenwaters, by Juliet Marillier, is the fifth book in a series about the noble family of the titular location.
The Sevenwaters family lives in ancient Ireland (they say Erin) and the forest that is part of their holdings is one of the last bits of territory held by the gods of the old pagan religion. The Sevenwaters family are not only devout adherents of that religion, but advocates for it abroad. The gods also like to use the family to their own ends, which is a catalyst for much of the action in the series.
Enter Sibeal, the fourth daughter. She has traveled to Inis Eala, an island where her cousin runs a training school for warriors. Two of her sisters live there with their husbands and she is spending the summer with them before she dedicates her life to the druidic order.
Not long after she arrives, a ship is wrecked on the reef near Inis Eala and there are only three survivors. Sibeal rescues one of them herself, a young dark-haired man that she names Ardal. A breath away from death, Ardal cannot remember anything from before the wreck. It becomes clear that one of the survivors doesn't want Ardal to reveal what he knows.
When the truth is revealed, Sibeal must accompany Ardal on a dangerous journey (enter meddling gods) and then make a terrible decision: choose between her growing love for him and her calling to serve the gods.
I enjoyed the other four Sevenwaters novels very much, and I think my high expectations hurt the reading of this one. The biggest issue I have with the novel is the pacing. It feels like an eternity before the characters catch onto the weirdness of the relationships between Ardal and the other survivors. I think part of the problem is that Marillier is working to set up the next novel within this story.
Another thing that irked me is how the characters dealt with one of the survivors, a woman named Svala. It's pretty obvious that something is really not right her. While the others think that she's just severely traumatized, it was painfully obvious to me what her true origins were.
Marillier has drawn on many Irish story traditions to shape her novels; these Irish legends are intertwined with rich characters that face similar journeys and tragedies, and I think that's what kept me interested in the series.
I won't give this one up because I like the series as a whole, and I think my opinion would approve after a second read. But in light of my criticism, I'm going to give it a new rating that reflects its potential, but you shouldn't go out of your way to purchase a copy.