I thought Dreamer’s Pool, the first Blackthorn & Grim novel, was a fine start to a series. I liked the characters quite a bit, and was intrigued by the competing agendas between courts and species that Juliet Marillier had set up. I thought the mystery plot could have been stronger, as well as the depth of some characterizations, but it was a good start. It was certainly good enough that I didn’t hesitate to pick up a copy of the second book, Tower of Thorns.
Tower of Thorns begins not long after the end of Dreamer’s Pool. Oran and Flidais, the secondary couple, are expecting their first child and so Blackthorn goes to visit them and help Flidais through her pregnancy in her capacity as a healer. However, Lady Geiléis comes to Oran with a tale of a monster, whose howls plague her lands, trapped in a tower. She asks her ruler for help, and Blackthorn ends up answering the call due her familiarity with magical problems.
I miss the Winterfells setting, but like that the overarching storylines continue despite its lack. Lady Geiléis’s lands are close to those of Mathuin, Blackthorn’s enemy. Being so close tempts Blackthorn to break her promise to the elf who rescued her from prison. When an old friend shows up and offers help to back her suit against Mathuin, she’s even more tempted to take the risk. Her inner conflict between who she was and who she is becoming drives much of her portions of the novel.
Her companion, Grim, must also face his past. One of my issues with Dreamer’s Pool was that it left Grim a cipher, a good, gentle, and helpful presence with the simplest of motives. His past isn’t fully explained, but his earliest scars are explored. He is still my favorite character in the series, so it makes me very happy to see more of his origins fleshed out. I also like how important his skills in observation are to the plot. People underestimate him because he’s large and quiet, but he has much to offer Blackthorn as a friend and companion. It is a balanced partnership.
I also enjoyed the continued slow burn between Blackthorn and Grim. Blackthorn is still recovering from the deaths of her husband and child, not nearly ready for another romantic relationship. But she is starting to let Grim past her prickly walls and realizing the depth of how much he cares for her.
Once more, however, I think the novel’s mystery could use some punching up. Tower of Thorns makes it clear that Geiléis is keeping secrets. She knows far more about what is happening than she tells at court. Her story is a mix of Sleeping Beauty, Ivan and the Wolf, and several other tales. I enjoy the use of fairy tales as the basis of the series’ mythology, but do find that it makes some things predictable. Luckily, the characters and their relationships are strong enough to save the rest.
I find that Tower of Thorns expands on the strengths of Dreamer’s Pool, leaving me hopeful that this series will continue to deepen and improve. I am looking forward to Blackthorn and Grim’s future adventures.
Award-winning author Juliet Marillier’s “lavishly detailed”* Blackthorn & Grim series continues as a mysterious creature holds an enchanted and imperiled ancient Ireland in thrall.
Disillusioned healer Blackthorn and her companion, Grim, have settled in Dalriada to wait out the seven years of Blackthorn’s bond to her fey mentor, hoping to avoid any dire challenges. But trouble has a way of seeking out Blackthorn and Grim.
Lady Geiléis, a noblewoman from the northern border, has asked for the prince of Dalriada’s help in expelling a howling creature from an old tower on her land—one surrounded by an impenetrable hedge of thorns. Casting a blight over the entire district, and impossible to drive out by ordinary means, it threatens both the safety and the sanity of all who live nearby. With no ready solutions to offer, the prince consults Blackthorn and Grim.
As Blackthorn and Grim begin to put the pieces of this puzzle together, it’s apparent that a powerful adversary is working behind the scenes. Their quest is about to become a life and death struggle—a conflict in which even the closest of friends can find themselves on opposite sides.
Read an excerpt here.
Other books in the series: