This is the first in a planned series of seven novels based around the legends of the Seven Sisters star constellation. Each novel follows the story of one of six sisters, all born to different parents and adopted as babies by a man the girls call ‘Pa Salt’. Pa Salt has named his adopted daughters after the stars in the constellation: Maia, Alycone (Ally), Asterope (Star), Celaeno (CeCe), Taygete (Tiggy) and Electra. There is no seventh sister, which has made me very curious about the seventh book in the series!
This first novel introduces us to Maia d’Apliese, the eldest of the six girls. Growing up on Pa Salt’s estate, Atlantis, by Lake Geneva in Switzerland, Maia and her sisters have been loved and cared for by their adoptive father and his housekeeper, Marina, but know almost nothing about their own origins. When Pa Salt dies suddenly, the sisters – all now adults with lives and careers of their own – gather at Atlantis to remember the man who had been a father to them all. To their surprise, they discover that Pa Salt has left each of them an envelope containing clues to their heritage and pointing them in the direction of their place of birth.
Maia is surprised to find that her own life began in Rio de Janeiro, and with no reason to remain in Switzerland, she sets off to Brazil to research her roots. With the help of the Brazilian novelist, Floriano Quintelas, Maia begins to uncover the story of a young woman called Izabela who lived in Rio during the 1920s and played a part in the creation of the statue of Christ the Redeemer. As she learns more about Izabela, Maia begins to gain the confidence to move on with her own life and seize her own chance of happiness before it’s too late.
The Seven Sisters is a big book with over 600 pages in the hardback edition I read, but I never felt that it was too long. I was drawn into both main characters’ stories, so I didn’t really notice the length of the book. The experiences of Maia and Izabela are very different in some ways – Maia, in 2007, has freedom and opportunites that Izabela could only dream of – but there are also some similarities between their two stories. Both women are hiding secrets, both have made mistakes and both have lost someone close to them. Of the two characters, I preferred Maia, but both storylines interested me.
I also liked the setting – or settings, as there is more than one! Some of the 1920s chapters are set in Paris where Izabela spends some time among the Bohemian artists and writers in Montparnasse, but my favourites were the sections set in Rio. I know very little about Brazil and its history, so I enjoyed going back in time and learning about the construction of Christ the Redeemer, as well as the modern day chapters in which Maia sees some of the city’s famous sights.
I really love the concept of this series; it’s ambitious and something different. After I finished the book I took the time to explore Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters website, where she explains some of the mythology behind the Seven Sisters, or Pleiades, constellation. I discovered that she had also woven some anagrams and mythological allusions into the story too, which I hadn’t noticed while I was reading the book but will look out for in future novels now that I’m aware of it! I’m already looking forward to the second in the series, which will be Ally’s story. Ally’s personality seems to be very different from Maia’s and I can’t wait to get to know her better.