I feel like this is a perfectly good book that just didn't appeal to me very much for a number of reasons. So this review will probably be inordinately harsh, and will contain spoilers because it wasn't good enough for me to recommend! If you think you'd like this book, I recommend you read some other fantasy book instead.
Daughter of the Forest is about a girl named Sorcha who enjoys a fairly idyllic childhood in the wilderness of fantasy Ireland with her aloof father and six older brothers. Her childhood is interrupted when an evil witch marries her father and curses her brothers to turn into swans. To save her brothers, she must make a shirt for each of them out of spiny plants that hurt her hands and are prohibitively difficult to weave. And that's just the beginning of Sorcha's problems.
I get that it's a really simple and effective way to make readers care about protagonists when all of the bad things and injustice in the universe happen to them, but it doesn't make for great literature. It evokes emotion, but also resentment and annoyance from me. Sure, every single chapter of this book made me cry, but it wasn't good. It was formulaic and predictable with nothing new. Even the plot is apparently an adaptation of an Irish folk tale. I felt like everything from the impossible quest to the obligatory love triangle had been done to death.
And the totally unnecessary rape scene! Naturally when the female protagonist needs an extra burst of sympathy and an excuse to be feeble for the rest of eternity there is a totally unnecessary and disgusting rape scene. Way to go, Marillier, I bet no one's done that before.
The protagonist didn't do a whole lot for me. She pretty much ran around doing whatever anyone told her and not showing any ambition or fight. Even when her brothers were separating her from her one true love or whatever she pretty much rolled with it. A little fight would have gone a long way.
To be fair, this book is well written and has an engaging plot. It just has many of the buttons such as rape, wimpy women, poorly developed or stereotypish characters, and cheap emotional shots that annoy me disproportionately. I recommend reading original books with awesome girls in them instead of this, such as Feast of Souls, The Hunger Games or Winter of Fire.