‘I was born two years into my mother’s captivity. She was three weeks shy of seventeen. If I had known then what I do now, things would have been a lot different. I would have been a lot more understanding of my mother. I wouldn’t have adored my father.’ When the notorious child abductor known as the Marsh King escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger. No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena’s past: they don’t know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve – or that her father raised her to be a killer. And they don’t know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone…except, perhaps his own daughter.
Most of you know that The Marsh King’s Daughter was, probably, my most anticipated release this year. I was obsessed with the book before I even got it. I love stories about kidnappings and the way the blurb described the events had me all curious and excited.
When you read the synopsis of a book, sometimes you get some ideas and, without even realizing it, you might create unrealistic expectations. To be honest, I expected this novel to be something like Still Missing by Chevy Stevens or even Room, but the truth is The Marsh King’s Daughter was nothing like those books. Hint: It was better. If you’re wondering which book could offer the same vibe, I’d say 12 Lives of Samuel Hawley. However, I enjoyed this one way more.
I’m fascinated by stories where people don’t recognize right from wrong because they don’t know any better. A child born into captivity is the perfect way to explore those themes and The Marsh King’s Daughter does it beautifully. Helena is the absolute main protagonist of this book. Helena wants us to discover her story and she wants us to know this tale is only hers. Not her mother’s (we don’t even learn her name) or her father’s (the notorious child abductor). Because how can Helena not love her father? He’s the only man he knows and practically the only person who interacts with her, as her mother barely acknowledges her. Helena herself is a fascinating character too. That doesn’t mean she’s likable, because she isn’t, really. Still, I couldn’t help but become completely absorbed in her twisted fairy tale.
The alternate timelines worked so well here. On the one hand, we learn about the years in captivity, Helena’s childhood and relationship with her parents. Her unconventional skills, her ties to nature and the wilderness. On the other hand, many years later, Helena is free, married, and with two kids of her own. Her father has escaped prison, and she’s determined to track him down and kill him. But can she really do that?
A haunting, unique and atmospheric novel that is bound to become a big success. I’m already thinking that this would make a fantastic movie.
ARC, Little Brown UK, 2017