When 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.
A little backstory . . . . . If you are a Netgalley frequent flyer, you know some books just aren’t available to US readers. When I found this title, I read the synopsis and knew I absolutely wanted to read it. As I went to click “request” I noticed this book was reserved for UK readers alone. Well, damn! But there was hope and let this be a lesson to you, if you keep looking through all the pages and if you get really, really lucky, you’ll find a second version of the book that’s available to US readers!
And so it begins . . . . my review of The Marsh King’s Daughter 😊
From the beginning, this book reads like a memoir more than a work of fiction and that memoir unfolds just as Helena discovers her father, the Marsh King has violently escaped from his maximum-security prison. No one, literally no one in Helena’s life knows she is the daughter of the infamous Marsh King and had he simply died in his cell as he was meant to, Helena would have never had to reveal her secret nor hunt down her father.
As a child, Helena knew only the world her father allowed her to know. She lived with her parents in a small cabin so far off the grid humanity has all but forgotten about them. With no electricity, no plumbing, and certainly no amenities or creature comforts of any kind, Helena learned to live off the land, to survive in places and situations most would never understand. To Helena, her little world was as large and expansive as the known universe and it wasn’t until she was 12 years old that she understood just how evil her father really was. He was cruel on a level rarely seen, and when Helena was finally old enough to understand the extent of her situation, she was also old enough to know she had to change her identity of she had any hope of living a somewhat normal life.
With the authorities out in force looking for her father and her husband now privy to her darkest secret, Helena knows with absolute certainty she is the only one who can track down her father and bring him to the justice he deserves. As Helena begins the slow process of tracking her father, she has time to reminisce about her life with her father and the atrocities he perpetrated upon she and her mother over more than a decade of captivity. The moments Helena relives in her memory are some of the best and the worst of her entire life. As an adult, she now understands the lessons her father taught her, both good and bad are the very lessons that will allow her and no other to find him. When the moment comes, even Helena isn’t sure how she will react, but she’s certain her choices and her decisions won’t be based on the fears of child she once was, but on the wisdom of an adult grown from that fearful child.
The Bottom Line: I’m not entirely sure this book would have been nearly as good if it read as something other than a fictional memoir. Helena’s present is very much shaped by her childhood experiences and she recounts those experiences in a stony coldness as she tracks her father. To be sure, this read isn’t sunny or happy, but a cold recounting and child/woman’s horrifying experiences and her determination to see her nightmares ended and not revisited on her own children. Because of the subject matter, I can’t say I enjoyed the book, but I certainly appreciated the message. Ultimately, The Marsh King’s Daughter is a story of survival, determination, and the triumph of the human spirit.