Author: Juliet Marillier
Series: Blackthorn and Grim, #1
Imprisoned under false accusations for almost a year, Blackthorn has been waiting for the day when she can finally defend herself. Driven by her hatred for the scheming Lord Mathuin, Blackthorn lives only to see him get what he deserves. When she learns her prison guard has been ordered to kill her before she can speak on her own behalf, all hope vanishes. It is only a matter of time before her life comes to an end. But then the stranger Conmael makes her an offer: give up her quest for vengeance and serve seven years as a healer in the land of Dalraida, far from Mathuin, and he will spare her life.
In Dalraida, Prince Oran eagerly awaits the arrival of her betrothed, Lady Flidais. Their letters to each other have promised nothing but happiness between the two, but when Lady Flidais arrives, he finds her quite changed from the woman he has exchanged correspondence with. Something is amiss and Oran seeks the help of the wise woman, Blackthorn, who has just taken up residence in his land.
“I scrabbled on the floor, searching among the things I’d hurled everywhere, and my fingers closed around the rusty nail. Those marks on the wall were mocking me; they were making a liar of me.”
Juliet Marillier is one of my favorite authors, certainly my favorite fantasy writer, so I went into Dreamer’s Pool with high expectations and it pains me to say that I was disappointed. Marillier’s Sevenwaters series and her Wildwood duology are among my favorite books, they are enchanting and fairy-tale like in manner. Dreamer’s Pool felt less like this and although the often prickly protagonist Blackthorn pulled me in immediately, I felt the novel lost a bit of its muster when the narration fell to Prince Oran and Grim.
Young and naive, Oran felt like easy prey and the how the story unfolds was predicable, at least I predicted what was going to happen pretty early into the story. Grim, former prison mate to Blackthorn, reminded me a bit of Stoyan from Marillier’s Cybele’s Secret, a gentle giant you cannot help but love. There is plenty of character development for Blackthorn and Oran, but Grim did not get the kind of backstory needed to see him as a well-rounded character. I suspect his past will come back to haunt him in the subsequent books which will help explain his insecurities.
The story itself felt slow as the Prince does not enlist the help of Blackthorn for quite some time. The fiery hatred fueling Blackthorn was not addressed for a large portion of the book, so when certain circumstance brought her experiences with Mathuin back to light, I didn’t feel the impact as much as I should have.