cover image Wildwood Dancing

Wildwood Dancing

Juliet Marillier, . . Knopf, $16.99 (407pp) ISBN 978-0-375-83364-9

Combining several familiar fairy tales in her first novel for young readers, Australian author Marillier (Daughter of the Forest , for adults) crafts a romantic fantasy rich in detail, magical creatures and strong female characters. The Wildwood is a magical place ruled by Draguta, "the witch of the wood." For nine years, narrator Jenica (aka Jena) and her four sisters have secretly visited the Other Kingdom, which appears in the Wildwood every Full Moon and where they dance until morning. Though Tati is the oldest, 15-year-old Jena is the responsible sister; people find Jena a bit odd because she travels with a frog named Gogu ("My dearest friend, my inseparable companion and my wise advisor," says she). But the sisters' idyllic world begins to crumble when their cousin Cezar takes over running their estate, Piscul Dracului, while their father is away. Cezar hates and fears the Other Kingdom as much as Jena and her sisters love it. He plans to destroy the trees in the Wildwood, and Jena frantically seeks a way to save the magical world. Marillier weaves the tale of the frog prince into this lush novel, peopled with vampires and forest witches, and adds a surprise twist (involving Jena and her amphibian companion). Ages 12-up. (Jan.)