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Blackthorn & Grim #1

Dreamer's Pool

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Award-winning author Juliet Marillier "weaves magic, mythology, and folklore into every sentence on the page" (The Book Smugglers). Now she begins an all-new and enchanting series that will transport readers to a magical vision of ancient Ireland...

In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she'll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help.

Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais. He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love. But Oran discovers letters can lie. For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.

With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma. Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help. To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic.

434 pages, Hardcover

First published November 4, 2014

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About the author

Juliet Marillier

92 books10.9k followers
Juliet Marillier was born in Dunedin, New Zealand and grew up surrounded by Celtic music and stories. Her own Celtic-Gaelic roots inspired her to write her first series, the Sevenwaters Trilogy. Juliet was educated at the University of Otago, where she majored in music and languages, graduating BA and Bachelor of Music (Hons). Her lifelong interest in history, folklore and mythology has had a major influence on her writing.

Juliet is the author of twenty-one historical fantasy novels for adults and young adults, as well as a book of short fiction. Juliet's novels and short stories have won many awards.

Juliet lives in a 110 year old cottage in a riverside suburb of Perth, Western Australia. When not writing, she tends to her small pack of rescue dogs. She also has four adult children and eight grandchildren. Juliet is a member of the druid order OBOD (the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.)

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Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
840 reviews3,770 followers
February 15, 2021

Let me put it bluntly, okay? Sometimes we must face the facts, as unpleasant as they are : Nothing in Dreamer's Pool brought me enjoyment. Nothing. That's why, no matter how skilled Juliet Marillier might be with her words, I cannot rate this book anything else than 1 star.

Yet it all started so promisingly. Indeed the first two chapters (out of 41) awoke my interest : Blackthorn and Grim, prisoners and driven with vengeance, touched me with their hopelessness and I couldn't wait to know what their future would hold.

That is, until that fae dude came in the picture. I'm sure the guy has reasons to act the way he does, but so far his motivations remain in the shadows and I can't wrap my head around the idiocy of it all. This is not a feeling I enjoy. Deus-ex-machina to its finest.

Truth is, 15% in and I already knew that something was amiss - unfortunately it did not get better. The whole thing is boring and filled with pages and pages of countryside random life nonsense like,

"I talked to some farmers about a troublesome patch of boggy ground and the need to dig a drainage ditch. They could not agree on its position. I suggested they consider a compromise that would not encroach too severely on either man's farm, and told them to bring it to the council if they had not reached agreement by then."

And it goes on, and on, and on... Blackthorn says it better than I could :

"There was some discussion. The two fellows set out their arguments, which had to do with rights of way and wandering cattle. My mind was wandering too, away from a matter that was of little interest to me..."

EXACTLY. I do not care about any of this.

Which brings me to : What is the fucking point of this book?! I would say, to resolve a mystery...

... But how in the world can I call this a mystery when I guessed EVERYTHING at 30%? It doesn't make me proud, but it just shows how obvious the plot "twists" (can we really talk about twists at this point, that I do not know) were. The strings were so flashy and unavoidable that it annoyed me to no end to wait for the characters to finally get it. As far as plot resolution goes, Dreamer's Pool is a big fail for me. This said, even predictable, some books manage to keep my interest because of their wonderful characters.

Dreamer's Pool is not one of those books. Where are the complex and fleshed-out characters? Because I saw none. On the contrary they felt one-dimensional to me : having a tortured past doesn't make you layered. If you act like a robot and that I, as a reader, can guess everything you'll do/say, you are not complex. Neither Blackthorn or Grim are, and I just didn't care about what could happen to them whatsoever. Not that they actually did something during most of the book, mind you. They honestly seemed as perplexed as I was about their role in the story. And don't get me started about Oran, the naive Prince waiting for his true love. What a brat, really.

Finally, I am so very mad at the way sexuality is portrayed and how the boundaries between good and evil are linked to it. I genuinely thought that we were past shaming women for sex, and using it as a main characterization point, but it seems that I was wrong. In this world, if you want to find the Evil Women, just look at those who have sex. As for the others, they're most likely going to be raped.

It doesn't help that this book contains one of my BIGGEST pet peeves , which led to some idiotic and rage-inducing drama. One might say that the villain's wrongs do not stop at sex, but see, it is not my problem here. What maddens me is the fact that sexual behavior is what brings awareness on the flaws of a character. Indeed, sex is supposed to convince me that this person is the villain. NOPE. Screw this and these double standards.

I can already see the arguments telling me that at this period of time, women were often categorized as such with the "whores" (who have sex before marriage) and the "good girls" (who wait and do everything in their power to stay virgins). Excuse me but, WHAT PERIOD OF TIME?!

1) No matter how medieval the world is pictured, this is Fantasy, not Historical fiction. We could wonder why medieval settings are so often used in Fantasy, actually, especially because with them come so many sexist stereotypes.

2) This book has been written in 2014. If I would be more lenient with a Medieval author, this is not the case here. Why do contemporary authors feel the need to picture worlds where women's sexuality is treated with such shame and Manichaeism? Nobody forces them to do so, and this is the authors' choice. I am so very tired of this choice.

Fuck this.

Of course Blackthorn doesn't agree with the sex shaming and I really appreciated the way she defended women from these numerous sexist remarks (often from the villains, yes, but the "Good Girls don't" speeches are still way too present for my taste).

But in the end, because of the way the plot is built, it doesn't change anything. I am not happy with the ending which I found awfully unfair.

Dreamer's Pool might be loved by many readers, yet I cannot recommend it, as it was such an utter fail for me.

For more of my reviews, please visit:
Profile Image for Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ .
1,258 reviews8,707 followers
March 21, 2018
3/21/18 - ON SALE for $2.99:


Reviewed by: Rabid Reads

I know I mentioned that I'm a longtime fan of Juliet Marillier in the not too distant past. How I kept reading Shadowfell despite it's lackluster beginning, and how Raven Flight renewed my faith in her abilities.

There are many reasons for that faith, but the simplest way to explain it is that in fantasy there is a not-quite-stock character that I'm going to call the Storyteller (original, I know). This character is often a grandparent figure, a leader in an unofficial, but easily recognizable capacity, and is universally revered. They tell their stories both to entertain and to guide, and when they rule the pages of the book I'm reading, I become absolutely enthralled.

Juliet Marillier is a Storyteller made flesh, and DREAMER'S POOL is her most recent tale.

Blackthorn is a woman with the knowledge and ability to heal.

But she is not the typical peace-loving woman who lives in the forest with a beautiful garden of strange and wondrous growing things. No, she is not. She is a woman who has been rotting in a prison cell for nearly a year, and she is a woman who thirsts for vengeance to the exclusion of almost everything else.

So when one of the fey folk visits her--just after she's learned that the man who imprisoned her, the man upon whom she dreams to avenge herself, has arranged for her to be killed rather than having her case heard--and offers her freedom, but at a price: she must swear not to seek the revenge she so desperately desires for no less than seven years . . .

She almost refuses.

But she is, thankfully, not that blinded by hate, and when part of the dank underground prison suddenly collapses, Blackthorn knows it's her chance.

She doesn't escape alone.

A giant of a man called Grim also escapes, and the two of them make their way to where Blackthorn promised the fey she'd go . . . together.

Oran is a most unprincely prince. According to his mother, anyway. He is a Romantic who has been avoiding the business of finding a wife, b/c he doesn't want it to be business.

And it's seems his wish is granted in the lovely Lady Flidais, but when she arrives . . . he finds her shockingly dissimilar to the woman with whom he'd been corresponding, and he becomes convinced that something nefarious is afoot.

But is that simply wishful thinking?

DREAMER'S POOL flawlessly intertwines these two separate stories so that the whole is much greater than the parts. The slow but sure development of a real partnership between the emotionally vacant Blackthorn and the haunted-by-some-unknown-past Grim is heart-wrenching to witness, as is watching Oran's dreams seemingly crumble to dust. But there are strange things happening in Oran's kingdom, and they can all be traced back to a pool in a fey wood.

Will they discover the truth before Oran finds himself wed to a woman he neither likes nor respects?

Read it and find out. Highly recommended.

Jessica Signature

My other reviews for this series:

Tower of Thorns (Blackthorn & Grim, #2) by Juliet Marillier
Den of Wolves (Blackthorn & Grim, #3) by Juliet Marillier
Profile Image for cc.
425 reviews165 followers
February 16, 2015
I've been trying to write a review for Dreamer's Pool for a long time now, but it's so hard because I never know exactly how to express my love for JM's stories and characters. Let it be known that she's my favorite author of all time, and she can do no wrong.

That said, Dreamer's Pool is one of those freakishly unputdownable books, you know, when you can only make yourself stop reading when you desperately need food, a bathroom break, or when, sadly, it's so late that your eyes just give out. The thing is, there's always something happening in the story, something that makes you want to keep reading because you have to know what's going to happen next, and, in my case: I just couldn't abandon the characters, because that's what it felt like every time I had to stop reading, "Oh great, now Blackthorn is all alone in the dark, cold, scary forest, I'm the worst!!"

Speaking of Blackthorn, she is a legend, truly one of those characters that I know will stay with me forever. Once upon a time everything was horribly taken away from her, and that turned her into this combination of extremes: 1. angry, badass, unstoppable force of nature, and I believe that there are tornados, and thunderstorms, and earthquakes, and hurricanes, and great floods all alive and kicking inside of her--they're what keep her going, that and an unyielding need for justice and revenge; and 2. lonely, self-destructive, fragile, hurt, and broken, so broken, and really just a touch away to shatter completely, because after all she's human (until JM tells us otherwise), and there's no way a person can go through what she endured and still be whole.

It’s because Blackthorn is such an intense character that her unlikely pairing with big, gentle, awkward Grim is so appealing—he’s the only person that she’ll listen to (BARELY), the only person capable of actually reaching her when she’s at the limits of pain and self-destruction, blinded by the need for justice. Somehow, among all the turmoil, Grim can bring her back, he can bring her back from the dark places inside her mind, and make her see things clearly again--and all this just by saying a few words, or by staying as close to her as she’ll allow him, and it’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

And did I mention that they are just friends? Yep, there’s no romance between these two, at least not yet, but who knows what Tower of Thorns will bring. (To be honest, I don’t even care, I like their relationship the way it is, and would love if they eventually became a couple, but if they don’t, I’ll still be content, because their friendship, the way it is, is something truly special.)

I’m not even going to say much about the plot--this way I won’t spoil it--just that it’s a mystery involving a princess, and that it reminded me a lot of the fairy tale The Goose Girl (I don’t know if it’s actually inspired by the tale), tangled with Blackthorn and Grim’s own stories, and their story together. I especially loved Grim’s POV chapters, because he’s so sincere, genuine, unpretentious, and just... raw, and I’d always miss him so much when someone else’s POV was up. Of course I also loved Blackthorn’s chapters with a passion, believe it or not but she’s hilarious, hysterical, really. (Spirit animal!)

A remarkable story, with extraordinary, unforgettable characters. Go read it!

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Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
January 29, 2020
Dreamer's Pool, the first in the Blackthorn & Grim series by talented author Juliet Marillier, is a solid medieval magical fantasy/mystery. It was also, truthfully, a little too slow-paced for me; I got bored and did a fair amount of skimming in the last half. In fact, I was bored enough that I wrote half of this review two years ago, set it aside and never finished it. But I'm trying to remedy that now.

A woman who (a little later) calls herself Blackthorn has been in the local despotic lord's dungeon for a year, falsely accused by him of a crime to hide his own habit of raping any of the local women he chooses. It's a horrendous experience that has broken her in most ways, other than the desire for revenge. She's looking forward to one thing: the day she gets a hearing in court, scheduled for the day after the story begins. So it's a bitter pill indeed when she learns that he plans to have her killed before the hearing.

An elf lord appears, deus ex machine-like, and offers her a choice: he'll break her out of prison if she will agree, for a period of seven years, to (1) go live in a place of his choosing and exercise her healer craft, (2) help anyone who asks her for help, with or without expressly saying so, and (3) completely abandon her plan for revenge. It's the last condition that almost kills her. But with no alternative, she agrees.

The prison duly falls apart, a few prisoners escape, and Blackthorn heads north with Grim, one of her fellow former prisoners. There she comes into the realm of a prince named Oran, who has a problem that he brings to Blackthorn: He's been corresponding with his promised bride, Flidais, who he's never met. But from all their letters he's certain she is a sweet, sensitive, honorable lady.

Now she's finally traveled to his kingdom to meet and marry him ... and she's not what Oran expected. AT ALL. She acts in a uncultured, promiscuous, lowborn manner. Oran can't break off the wedding, but he can't help but think something's very wrong here. Perhaps Blackthorn can investigate and help him? Blackthorn rather reluctantly agrees (binding elf lord promise kicks in).

It was, in fact, an interesting mystery with an unexpected resolution; it just took a little too long for it to get there. I didn't feel like it justified all 400+ pages. There are some disturbing themes explored here - rape, abuse, damaged souls - and perhaps I was just mentally veering away from those dark waters. Marillier also spends time developing Blackthorn and her companion Grim, and they're well-rounded characters, if very rough around the edges. They just weren't quite appealing enough to me to want to spend more time with them.
February 13, 2016
►► BR with my MacHalo Freaks starting January 1, 2016.

DNF at 41%

My first DNF of the year!!! Get the maracas out of storage, people, this calls for a celebration!!!

I'm sure this is the first of many, many DNFs to come, I'm so excited right now! And Ange picked this book for us, which means I get to choose a penance read to punish her for putting me through this, too! Oh, I think 2016 is going to be a great year!

Okay. Let's do this quickly, shall we? Things to do, places to go, potential DNFs to read and all that crap.

So most of my slightly demented fellow buddy readers really enjoyed this story. What can I say? They're good people, really they are. It's just that they keep reading books wrong. Well, I have to admit it certainly doesn't help that they have such atrocious, dreadful, lousy, substandard taste in books. But hey, they're good people, really they are. So I guess I shouldn't complain, right? Right.

But anyway.

Why didn't LOVE this unequaled masterpiece, you ask? Let's see…

Boredom. It's a thing
Juliet Marillier, you should be awarded a Nobel Prize for finding the cure to insomnia. I could tell you that the story is slow paced but it wouldn't do it justice. I mean, I stopped reading the book at the 41% mark and I was still waiting for something to happen. Oh these people here talk and think and ramble, that they do. They also talk and think and ramble sometimes. Mind you, that's only when they don't talk and think and ramble. It's really fascinating. You'd think an alternating POV-type book would at least offer some variety it terms of tone and voice of character. Don't be silly now. It's all flatness, all the time.

Tiresome, tedious characters Inc.
I couldn't bring myself to give a damn about a single character in this story. They could drop dead for all I care. That might be a good idea, actually. That would mean something had finally happened. But I don't think Marillier would have the guts to kill one of her MCs. Nah, she only kills the lowly servants. Because, you know, they're lowly. And servants. Such scum doesn't deserve to live. But I digress. So we have three alternating POVs, for three delightfully delightful characters:

Blackthorne: an ungrateful, unlikable, whiny bitch. You know, woe is me and all that stuff.
Grim: think of a grumpy wood log-brown bear hybrid, with the personality of a cardboard box.
Oran: the guy prefers poetry and nature to killing and bloodshed. If that's not pathetic, I don't know what is. I'd call him a wimp but that would be an insult to all the wimps out there.

Now. To be honest, there is one character I actually liked. One character that actually had some personality. One character that was full of life, interesting, and with some great potential for development. One character that stole the show every time he appeared. What character, you ask? Why Bramble the dog, of course.

Yeah, we have a pretty stellar cast of characters here. Added to the fascinating story, non-stop action, and insane plot twists, it makes for a staggeringly spectacular read.

►► Anything else to add? Nope, that's it. Bye now.

Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
873 reviews1,763 followers
March 4, 2018
I had my eyes on this book since forever, so when i saw that one of my friends is doing a BR, I joined.

this book has three plot-lines. While Blackthorn and Grim's has been woven together from the start of the book, Oran met them somewhere just before the halfway. Blackthorn is a healer and has been given a chance to live a quite life in exchange of giving up her vengeance mission. She accepts and was freed from the prison. Her fellow prisoner, Grim, joins her. She decides to stay in the forest near Dalraida. Oran, prince of Dalraida, is waiting for his betrothed but once she arrives, Oran started thinking that this is not the girl with whom he fell in love. As the story progressed we see how these three characters help each other.

this is an old school fantasy. curses, fairy tales, myths, and magic, you will get all these in this simple tale. there is also a mystery in the story but after a certain point this get very predictable.

As for the characters Blackthorn is the star of the book. her past was painful and when she thought about it, she let it overshadow her present where I absolutely hated it. She is presented as a strong and independent woman but her past turns her into a whiny women which I disliked about her. Grim was another great character. Though his past has not been revealed yet but I am very eager to know about what turned him into what he is now. Oran's character really made me bang my head into the wall. A great prince and king in the making but Oran as a lover was a big disappointment.

A good book with lovely characters and not so over the top story.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,032 reviews2,604 followers
March 9, 2015
5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum http://bibliosanctum.com/2014/10/27/b...

“Spellbinding” is the only word to describe Dreamer’s Pool. Reading it was like walking into a gorgeous, living fairy tale. I just loved this book, it’s probably one of the best I’ve read all year…and I’ve read A LOT of books this year.

This is the first in an adult series by Juliet Marillier, called Blackthorn and Grim. Blackthorn is a woman we meet at the beginning of the novel, imprisoned for speaking out against a wicked and corrupt chieftain. Hours before she is to be executed, she is visited by the fey, who offers her a chance to escape in exchange for her promise to set aside her desire for vengeance. Reluctantly, Blackthorn agrees and makes her way north to Dalriada to start her new life. She is trailed by her fellow prisoner and escapee Grim, a hulking man of few words. Unable to turn away anyone who asks her for help, Blackthorn also recognizes Grim’s potential as an ally, and the two of them strike up a tentative partnership.

Meanwhile in Dalriada, Prince Oran prepares to wed. He has never met his future bride the Lady Flidais, though he has seen her portrait and they have written extensively to each other. However, the crown prince is convinced that the sweet, compassionate and intelligent woman he has come to know through her letters is his perfect match, which is why he is dismayed when the Flidais who arrives at his castle is nothing like the Flidais he thought he knew. Had he been taken for a fool, merely blinded by youthful naiveté? Or is there something stranger, more mystical afoot? Perhaps the newly arrived wise woman and her big strong helper could be of some assistance in this mystery.

This is a tale of magic, set in a world where one imagines myths and legends can come to life, but it also feels surprisingly grounded at the same time, almost like a fairy tale infused with a bit of realism. These elements gave the world more depth and kept it from feeling too simplistic, but they were also muted enough not to be overbearing or risk completely obliterating the magical nuances. Marillier tackles the craft of world-building meticulously and flawlessly, striking the perfect tone. I’m beyond impressed.

Dreamer’s Pool is told through the perspectives of Blackthorn, Grim and Oran. These three characters made this book a joy to read, and there’s no hemming and hawing about it – I loved them all equally. They’re very different people, and the way they’re written by Marillier, you would never mistake any one of them for another. Each person’s voice feels unique and extraordinarily real and powerful. The reader perceives the world and various events through a character’s eyes, at the same time watching him or her develop along with the story. We’re with Oran as he grows from a young, carefree man into a thoughtful and worldly leader. We’re in Blackthorn’s head even as she is blinded by her own personal biases and unaware of her flaws. And Grim is just Grim. He’s simply an amazing and special man and there can be no other like him.

This book made me wonder why I waited so long to pick up something by Juliet Marillier. She writes so beautifully, with every word like an enchantment or spell drawing the reader deeper into the story. There’s a mystery here I couldn’t wait to get to the bottom of, and then as we drew closer to the conclusion I didn’t want this story to end!

Alas, it did. But I’m also glad this is going to be a series because I can’t wait until we can return to the world of Blackthorn and Grim. Until then, I’ve bought other books by Marillier because I just can’t get enough of her writing. Dreamer’s Pool gave me a taste, and now I’m hooked.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,975 followers
February 9, 2017
This was a gentle Fantasy with all the traditional, read archetypal, side-characters, but it's real strength is in being a great character-driven novel.

I consider Orlan and Flidais to be side characters in this story, with Blackthorn and Grim being the true gift from the author. With Blackthorn and Grim, this shouldn't be much of a stretch to see, despite Orlan's PoV time, because that guy was just too idealistic and good-natured and romantic a prince to make it as anything other than the subject of the novel and not the real meat. :)

Flidais was much worse: being the put-upon trope princess who serves as a backdrop and not a real mover. Which is a shame, because her real role (Sans Spoilers) did have quite a few more opportunities for fun and mayhem, but alas, this would not have served, likely even supplanting, the true tale of Blackthorn and Grim.

I've spent all this time on the side characters, but what's all the hullabaloo?

Think a revenge-filled wise-woman with a hulk of a devoted man watching over her, forced into service under the Fae to do good in a small little land, and you've got just the tip of the ice-burg. The novel was complete unto itself, with a good take on an old, old celtic trope, missing almost all of the tripe twists that are expected on such an old tale, resting all of its strengths on characterization, depth of world-building, and serious attention to detail.

I fully enjoyed the novel. It was such a nice change of pace from all the war-driven fantasies I've plowed through, recently, returning to the roots of Fantasy, as in Fairy Tales.

There's a lot of plot-drive about men and women, the nature of justice with rape, with perceptions and misunderstanding, as well as truly good-hearted people being wrapped up in the whole mess. (And bad ones, too.)

What can I say? I think this is no way a flashy novel or ranking up there as anything I'd peg as the standard, but as a very good novel with great characters, I think it's damn sweet. :)
Profile Image for Chantal .
337 reviews826 followers
October 2, 2015
About a year ago I read Juliet Marillier’s debut novel Daughter of the Forest and fell in love. The beauty of her writing, the complexity of the characters, the slow-burn romance and the atmosphere created was incredible and I knew immediately that I wanted to read other books by her. There is something unique about Marillier’s style, she has a very distinctive storyteller voice and the way she uses fairy tales, myths and lore in her stories is wonderful to read. She makes you feel like you’re sitting around a campfire in the middle of an Irish forest sipping hot tea.

These things still ring true after reading Dreamer's Pool, but unfortunately my enjoyment of the novel didn’t even come close to that of Daughter of the Forest. I knew going into Dreamer’s Pool that it would be a long and slow-paced book (as was Daughter of the Forest); what I didn’t expect though, was that its length and pace would feel dull, boring and tedious.


The story is told from three different POV’s and every chapter changes perspective. The novel starts off with Blackthorn who has been wrongfully imprisoned for a year by an evil and powerful man called Mathuin. Above all else, Blackthorn wants to get revenge for what Mathuin did to her and countless other people, but then she receives word that she is to die before she can make her case in court. The same night however, a fey named Conmael appears and offers her a deal: He will free her of the prison and save her from imminent death if she agrees to set aside her need for vengeance and help anyone in want of her help for seven years to come. She accepts the offer very reluctantly and, along with a prison mate of hers called Grim, she sets off to Dalriada to once again practice as a healer.
In the meantime, Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, is anxiously waiting for his future bride, Lady Flidais, to arrive. He knows her only from a drawn portrait and letters but is convinced that she is his soul mate, his one true love. But Oran soon discovers that things aren’t always the way they appear.

The first 50 or so pages of the novel were great. I was immediately engaged in the story and expected a novel full of action, intrigue and mystery. What I got though was nothing of the sort.


All of the main characters in this book were complex and flawed. Blackthorn and Grim are by no means paragons of virtue, but are in fact quite unlikable at times. Blackthorn is a bitter woman with a need for vengeance and generally doesn’t enjoy people’s company. She is also of mature years. Grim is a bit of a brute, a rather ugly man, strong and with a kind heart, but definitely not your typical fantasy hero. He is also of mature years.
See now, these two characters alone should have sold me on this story. They are so unique! When is the last time you have read a fantasy novel with middle-aged characters as protagonists? But to my complete surprise I didn’t feel attached to them in the slightest. I didn’t just not like them, I didn’t empathize with them at all; I didn’t care what would happen to them. I found both Blackthorn and Grim to be incredibly repetitive and uninteresting and after a while I couldn’t bear to hear their thoughts anymore. I was also very underwhelmed and disappointed by the lack of character development.

Then we have Oran. On the surface, Oran seems like the perfect prince. He is well-read, compassionate and just. He cares about his people, wants to be a good ruler. He also has his flaws however. He is quite naïve and a bit of a hopeless romantic. He wants to do the right thing but sometimes he doesn’t know how.
Oran annoyed me to no end. He was a total bore and lacked backbone. He just seemed like such a weak character overall and I could never warm up to him.

The side characters were not at all developed beyond one dimension and only seemed to serve the immediate story line. None of them were noteworthy or captured my attention.

I think Marillier has a good hand when it comes to characters; they always feel real and are full of raw emotion, however these ones just didn’t do it for me.

Plot & Pacing:

As I’ve already mentioned, this book turned out to be very boring. The book isn’t atmospheric enough to justify the glacial pace and the plot was beyond predictable. I guessed the entire mystery within the first pages of the unfolding events before we’re even really confronted with the conflict, which made the meandering storytelling even more frustrating. Overall, Dreamer’s Pool’s length wasn’t really worth my patience. The three POV’s, although well-done, felt unnecessary and didn’t really add to the story.

A few additional comments:

- I appreciated that friendship was a central theme in this story. The friendship between Blackthorn and Grim was complex and slow-building, as was the unfurling of the character’s back story. Unfortunately, I couldn’t love this though because I cared so little for the characters.
- I had a big issue with the portrayal of female sexuality. I’m not going to elaborate because it would be impossible to do without spoiling, but basically, Marillier does something here that I think could rub many people the wrong way.

I still suggest you pick up a Juliet Marillier book and I will certainly be reading more books by her, but this one didn’t work for me and I don’t recommend it.
Profile Image for Frances.
192 reviews319 followers
February 5, 2016
Her name is ‘Blackthorn’, a skilled magical healer falsely imprisoned and chained to a wall. Nearby in another dank filthy dungeon is Grim, who watches her intently fearing she may soon be taken away and hung. Having barely survived the year, Blackthorn is ready to give testimony to the counsel in the morning which she believes will finally set her free. As the evening falls, one of the guards appears and taunts her with his knowledge that she will never face the counsel, but only a quick blade before sunrise. Just before dawn destiny steps in. Blackthorn is escorted to meet a man, Conmael, who has paid handsomely for the privilege of speaking with her. Conmael is a fey with a proposition and three conditions. She must use her skill to help others; give it to anyone who ask; and not seek vengeance to those who had her imprisoned. But there was one final stipulation; she must do this for seven years, and if one of the terms is broken another year will be added. Award-winning author Juliet Marillier has written an enchanting fantasy tale with many dominant characters. It’s a tale to get lost in, and to embark upon a journey into the realm of magic.
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,608 reviews1,481 followers
August 16, 2018
What if you were slated to die but someone gave you a chance to live? The bargain…give up your quest vengeance/justice for seven years and help people. Do this and they will save you now from death tomorrow. Help anyone who asks, go to a different land and set up a life as a healer. Do this and you live, break your word and you are right back in prison and one step closer to death.
“The day before you died was the longest, slowest day ever. It gave you more time than you could possibly want to contemplate all the things you’d got wrong, the chances you’d missed, the errors you’d made. It was long enough to convince the most hopeful person that there was no point in anything.”

You might think this an easy choice, but when the need for justice and vengeance for the wrongs committed not just against you but those you love is so high it is hard to think of anything else. Blackthorn might have made the deal but it is a hard one to keep and it is even harder to be among people after all her time in the dark cruel prison of her enemy
“Part of me has turned wild, and another part’s turned dark as endless night, and I’m not going to change back just because someone says I must.”

Dreamers Pool is told in three PoVs. Blackthorn who has a tragic past and has had more taken from her than many could survive is a bit harsh and curt to those around her. She doesn’t really know how to be among people anymore but must learn and quickly or time will be added to her already long sentence of service.

Grim is a broken man who sometimes seems half crazy. He is a bit of a gentle giant and finds himself the protector of Blackthorn even if she doesn’t really want one. They seem to make an unlikely pair but they spent a year across from one another in a hell hole and seen each other through in their own way. So were Blackthorn goes, Grim follows. I adore Grim! He has a past himself, but he understands people in a way most don’t and for some reason he has made it his mission to protect not only Blackthorn but others that are weak and defenseless.

Together Grim and Blackthorn go to a new place, that seems a bit magical and has a touch the Fae in it, to set up a life and while there is no romance happening between them, I’m hopeful that is a temporary thing and eventually the friendship they have builds into something more.

The mystery of this story is like an old tale and happening mainly in the third PoV of the prince. He has written letters to his potential fiancé for a while hoping to build a bond as he sillily hopes for a marriage not just of convenience but of love.
“Letters tell the truths a person will not speak. They contain the deepest of feelings, the wisest of stories. Letters are powerful. They contain messages of hope, love, change.”

Certain that she is the one for him the plans for marriage progress and she comes to his land. But when she arrives the girl in front of him seems nothing like the woman from the letters. The prince is confused but hopes that it just the journey that her tired. But as time goes on he is more convinced that something strange has happened and the Prince asks Blackthorn and Grim to look into his bride to be since he is sure something is off and he must find out soon or he will be married to this woman who is not at all like the one he fell in love with through letters.

I love the way this is a slow rolling story with small things divvied out over time. It is definitely character driven as we get to know Blackthorn and Grim better. My favorite thing in this was their building strange friendship and how well they take care of each other. The mystery was interesting and not overly magical. I like that there are old magics and tales in this that give the world more depth and make me think of it as a fairytale land, not quite of the Disney variety but also not quite as harsh as Grim’s Fairytales either.

I look forward to more stories of Blackthorn and Grim.
Profile Image for Magrat Ajostiernos.
569 reviews3,943 followers
April 4, 2020
He disfrutado esta lectura, como todas las de Marillier, me ha atrapado su historia y he volado sobre sus páginas. Cada cierto tiempo necesito perderme en ese mundo de cuento de hadas oscuros, en esa Irlanda Medieval plagada de druidas, seres de faerie, mitos y leyendas que tan bien imagina esta autora.
Pero en este caso a pesar de todo he tenido bastantes problemas con el argumento y los personajes.
La historia sigue a Blackthorn, una curandera/bruja y al gigantesco Grim, ambos torturados por un pasado terrible se convierten en compañeros de infortunios y terminarán resolviendo el misterio de un príncipe incapaz de aceptar a su prometida.
La historia está contada a tres voces, la de Blackthorn, Grim y el príncipe. Mientras que las dos primeras me resultaron enormemente atractivas e interesantes, la del príncipe me sacó de quicio constantemente. Él mismo me pareció un personaje insustancial y poco creíble, la autora se empeñó demasiado en hacerlo "bueno" y consiguió convertirlo en soso y terriblemente cursi.
El misterio que lo envuelve es increíblemente previsible pero eso no impide que disfrutes de la historia, si no fuera porque según avanza cada vez tiene más importancia este misterio, mucho más que la propia historia de Blackthorn, Grim y los elfos.
En fin, esta claro que es el primer libro de una trilogía y la autora no quiso contar demasiado, pero aún así me sentí un poco defraudada con que no se resolviera absolutamente nada referente a nuestros dos personajes principales.
De todas maneras, es un libro disfrutable, para pasárselo bien y no darle muchas vueltas. Me hubiera gustado ver más magia y cuento con que en los próximos libros de la saga se profundice más en ello... Por supuesto seguiré con la trilogía, me han encantado tanto Blackthorn como Grim y especialmente la relación de confianza y amistad que se va desarrollando entre ellos.
Profile Image for Nathan.
399 reviews123 followers
November 16, 2014
Fantasy Review Barn

Once upon a time Juliet Marillier wrote a fairy tale and it was wonderful. She didn’t revamp an old classic with a new twist. She didn’t write something like a fairy tale that twists all the tropes around. She didn’t even write a fantasy book with a fairy tale feel to it. She wrote an honest to goodness fairy tale; slightly dark, slightly magical, and completely wonderful.

It starts with a bargain. Blackthorn, who had another name in another time under different circumstances, strikes a deal with a fae; seven years of services for escape from certain death. But the service is not to the fae himself but rather to the service to a community Followed by a man called Grim, or more often Bonehead in the jail they shared, she is to take on her old role of healer and wise women in a new location far from any home she has ever known.

Or maybe it starts with a tragedy. A prince eagerly awaiting his unseen soul mate first sees her in the worst of situations; right after the drowning death of one of her handmaidens in a mysterious pond on the princes’ lands. Where ever it starts these three very different people are now tied together in this fairy game – Grim, Blackthorn and the Prince Oran.

Let’s talk Blackthorn first as it is her story. A redemption tale? Perhaps, we first meet her in jail awaiting her time. A revenge story? Certainly not, as much as she wishes otherwise. The very nature of her bargain keeps her from the vengeance she desires for unknown past crimes. Worse, it forces her to help any who seek it despite her lack of desire to do much for anyone. But she is good at what she does, earns respect quickly and becomes an valuable member of her new community. She is that rare middle aged women who never seems to show in fantasy; the young see her as a crone already but she knows she has a ways to go before she hits that label.

Now Grim. Silent giant, thought to be touched in the head. A violent past implied. Destined to be either a gentle giant or a thug…in another story. But here is just a very human character. He has anger issues but controls them, makes friends in some places and not others, follows Blackthorn like a guard dog but doesn’t hover or attempt to control.

Finally Oran. Idealist. Dreamer. But more practical than he at first seems. He cares for his subjects, rules fairly, and plans his marriage for love around the needs of the kingdom. So it is with surprise and confusion that he tries to understand his betrothed. She isn’t the sweet, intelligent girl he has been writing to. There is a cold side, an aggressive side that doesn’t make sense. Confusion becomes suspicion and eventually he turns to several women he can trust to help him figure it all out.

Recognizing the fairy tale that was being wove I started trying to out think it. All the clues were there. Look how smart I am putting them all together! Aha you think you are so clever but I have figured out the mystery at the half way point. I am enjoying this so keep on writing but…oh wow. Didn’t see that coming. Should have, those clues were there too but I sat there distracted by the more obvious ones. Well then Marillier, this round goes to you.

Nothing fancy here, just great characters and a wonderful story. The only truly evil villains are minor players (though a few others make a run at the title at times) and the fae influence seems to be an easy way to set up the story rather than anything with lasting influence. Those who can’t take some fairy tale conveniences in plot set up may be disappointed but once the pieces are in play there is very little to pick at.

Recommended with full enthusiasm. One of the best books I have read this year.

5 Stars
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,232 reviews1,016 followers
October 5, 2015
After being unfairly imprisoned by a cruel lord, the healer/wise woman Blackthorn is freed by an enigmatic fey and charged with his rule: for seven years she may not seek revenge for the wrongs done to her and hers; instead she must take up residence in the kingdom of Dalriada and must provide aid to anyone who asks her for help.

Although reluctant, Blackthorn does as she is bid, and sets out for Dalriada, accompanied by her former fellow prisoner, Grim, a giant of a man whose feelings for Blackthorn hover somewhere in the realm between courtly love and devoted worship.

Arriving in Dalriada, the pair stumble into a scenario that will be extremely familiar to any reader familiar with the fairytale, 'The Goose Girl.' The local lord, Prince Oran, has been betrothed to a woman he's never seen. However, through extensive and intimate correspondence, he's fallen in love with Lady Flidais in absentia. However, the woman who arrives, although she physically matches the portrait of Flidais, seems to have an utterly different personality from that which he came to expect through the letters he's treasured. Is the change caused by shyness? Trauma due to the death of Flidais' maidservant during the journey? Or were the letters written by an artful scribe, not Flidais herself? All of Oran's associates pretty much tell him to suck it up - but eventually, he'll request Blackthorn's help, which she is honor-bound to give.

I liked a lot about this book. The writing is lovely, and the story is a nice mesh of original and traditional fairytale elements. Characters' actions spring naturally from their personalities and past experiences; and I liked that on occasion, it's shown that conclusions based on past experiences can be the result of fallibility. However, there was also a lot I didn't like about the book, especially as it went on. Throughout the entire story (including the subplots), there was a persistent thread of the idea that "good girls don't." (And 'nice' men don't either, or if they do, it's a moral failing.) Certainly, rape and abuse is a horrible thing, and certainly there are women who use sex as a tool of manipulation. But what's portrayed here goes past that, and into the realm of "enjoying sex is a sign of a bad character." I'm not on board with that message.

My other criticism is that, if we regard this book as a stand-alone, the fey exists solely as a deus ex machina. His motivations are never revealed. I assume that more will come out in the sequel(s), but taking this book on its own, it feels like a structural flaw.

I've only read one other book by Marillier so far, and liked it very much - so I'm definitely going to continue on with the sequel to this one.
Profile Image for Melissa (Mel’s Bookshelf).
445 reviews286 followers
August 17, 2019
4.5 Stars

First off I want to comment on the absolutely BEAUTIFUL cover! OMG I ADORE THIS COVER! Even though I have no idea who it is meant to depict, as the main character in this series has bright red hair, I DON’T CARE! It’s bloody gorgeous!

This story follows Blackthorn and Grim, they escape an awful prison and with some magical help, they find their way to a kingdom run by crown Prince Oran, who is having some lady troubles. Blackthorn soon becomes the town healer and Oran calls upon her for some assistance.

Yes that was an awful synopsis, but I don’t want to spoil the story for you. It isn’t exactly a romance as much as it is a tale of great friendship and with typical Marillier style, Fae and magic are in abundance.

I loved it. I thought it was fantastic. The characters were well developed, there were some absolutely hilarious moments as well as a lot of touching ones. I didn’t quite give it five stars because it was a bit long-winded at times and there was a large lack of romance for my liking. Especially for a Juliet Marillier book.

I also guessed the plot twists from the very beginning, but It didn’t hamper my enjoyment of it.

Did I enjoy the audio version?
YES! Loved the three narrators! Oran was by far my favourite. Scott Aiello was fantastic! I have listened to a few books with his narration now and I have enjoyed them all. A good narrator makes all the difference!

Would I Recommend Dreamer’s Pool?
Yes, anyone who enjoys a good Celtic fantasy will love this one. I can’t wait to listen to the second one to see what Blackthorn and Grim get up to next!

I purchased Dreamer’s Pool at my own expense at audible.com

For more reviews check out my:
July 1, 2016


Firstly, lets just get this out of the way. Everybody back the hell away from Grim. I want to marry him and have his babies. He's the new leading man in my life. Sorry Terrible . Grim has stolen my heart. LOVE HIM.

This was a wonderful story. Yes, I knew where it was going 100 pages in. Yes Blackthorn lives up to her name, being prickly at times, she's quick to anger, slow to trust and sometimes is downright unlikeable. But she learns from her mistakes, does the best she can and the way she is with Grim is just heartwarming. Yes Prince Oran is quite the idiot and creates problems for himself often. But in the end, it all worked. It all clicked and it all flowed and it all came to life around me and I could barely put it down.

The only reason I didn't give this five stars is that the world building and lore of the magic seemed a little sketchy to me, it was all a little bit ambiguous and as result I couldn't give it top marks. Grim deserves five stars all to himself though. LOVE YOU GRIM.

This was a wonderful fantasy tale that had a little bit of despair, a touch of magic, a pinch of hope, a sprinkling of mystery and a bunch of love.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, I had trouble putting it down, and I've already put the sequel on hold at my library.

4 marry-me-grim Stars

Thanks for the buddy read you wonderful people over at MacHalo !
Profile Image for Milda Page Runner.
300 reviews233 followers
November 12, 2016
Morrigan’s britches! This is quite a tale. And I’m still not sure how to classify it.

Dark, dreamy and magical story that is part fairytale part mystery solving/investigation. Two unlikely partners pushed to work together by ever-meddling fey to unravel mysteries that seemed to have stepped straight from the myths. There is a prince looking for one true love, strange personality changes, a misbehaving dog, an ancient wood and a pool of dark magic, disappeared village girl and mysterious death.

Whenever I thought I figured it out - the story surprised me. At first I thought it will be romantic – it turned out much more grim-dark, when I thought it will be all about magic/paranormal threat – dark human nature appeared to have played a big part. Two main characters aren’t exactly level-headed or wisecracking detectives – as they are fighting rage and demons of their own dark past.

Slow burning but engaging and atmospheric read.

Recommend for readers of darker fairytales, fey and Celtic mythology fans.
Profile Image for Mayim de Vries.
577 reviews829 followers
April 23, 2018
“It’s hard, sometimes, not to make things your business.”

What is the key to writing a successful novel? That is an easy question. A great main protagonist. And the best characters are those built on a conflict where opposites attract and merge. Like, a firefighter non-stop playing with fire (both figuratively, e.g. having an affair, and in reality, e.g. all the time fiddling with his old-school gasoline lighter). Like a mercenary with a charitable heart and a penchant for embroidery. Like a cranky healer, who hates people.

You like the last one? Meet Blackthorn. How refreshing after the crowd of boring angelic herbalists, which are something of Ms Marillier’s expertise. She is a fiery redhead, snappish and contrary “with an intensity about her like that of a wild creature caged,” with a tooth missing and a face that wore its years hard. And yet, under this worn out, beaten-down exterior, the woman she might has been still lingers.

“Part of me has turned wild, and another part’s turned dark as an endless night.”

This mouthy, uncompromising woman is compelled to strike a bargain with mysterious fey: In exchange for her life she needs to serve people for 7 years and must not deny a single cry for help either verbalised explicitly or implicitly aimed at her. For Blackthorn, this is the worst penance you could imagine.

Blackthorn carries the novel almost exclusively on her shoulders. She has caught my attention from the very first page. She is unorthodox, neither your sweet angelic creature who'd been wronged and craves for justice nor an anti-heroine on the shady side of life. Her internal contradictions are further emphasised by her companion, a skulking might of muscles called Grim.

”He had the look of a fighter, the head shaven, the nose crooked, the eyes small, the neck and shoulders bullish. His was a face only a mother would think handsome.”

Awesome characterisation, no? He is a man of few words, and all of those carefully selected: “The giant grunted in response. It could have meant yes, no, or Move away before I do you an injury.” His POV is very convincing and sometimes even entertaining if you like this kind of narrative crudeness.

Together Blackthorn and Grim complement and balance each other and their relation, as Silvana pointed out is very similar to this of Shara and Sigrud.

I have to say that I liked this novel much more than the books from the Sevensweaters series. Firstly, it reads faster. Secondly, I welcomed the change of narrative. In addition to the very distinct main heroine, the multi-POV narration is an added value.

Having said this, Dreamer’s Pool is not free from flaws. You need more than an enticing protagonist to charm a reader. My problem with how Marillier’s books are presented resurfaces yet again: the events heralded in the blurb take place well into the second half of the novel. It basically means that we know what is going to happen during the initial 2/3 of the book and the final 1/3 is painfully obvious. Yes, the book is terribly predictable and occasionally boring (travelogue!). Additionally, Grim is not so very fleshed out as a character . I do hope there will be more than muscle to his story.

Overall, interesting opening to a series with potential for further improvement. You might give it a try.


Also in the series:

2. Thower of Thorns
3. Den of Wolves
Profile Image for Sofia Teixeira.
594 reviews129 followers
December 8, 2016
Não há ninguém, mas mesmo ninguém, neste mundo como Juliet Marillier. Caindo no perigo de me tornar repetitiva a cada opinião que faço sobre esta escritora, não será exagerado afirmar que nunca li obras tão bem tecidas, com uma tão grande mestria e magia enquanto contadora de estórias. Existem momentos alegres, momentos de profunda tristeza, gargalhadas e lágrimas, um amor imenso que tem sempre um desespero em igual medida a acompanhar. O equilíbrio é a palavra-chave em todas estas obras, mas o que não não tem nada de equilibrado é o poder das emoções provocadas no leitor. A trilogia de Sevenwaters, da mesma autora, é a minha preferida de todos os tempos. Nada depois disso me tem surpreendido ou superado em fascínio. Daí todos estes elogios acabados de serem tecidos pois, apesar de O Lago dos Sonhos não ser superior, estamos perante um livro que nos prende do início ou fim e que volta a revelar uma capacidade única de criação de enredos fortes e personagens que vão desde o mais cativante ao mais odioso.

As primeiras páginas deixam o leitor logo sobreaviso. Não existe um tactear calmo e apresentador, mas antes um cenário de uma violência e repressão evidentes. A narrativa começa com Blackthorne na primeira pessoa, mas ao longo de toda a obra vai partilhando esse protagonismo com Grim e Oran, sendo que cada perspectiva é fundamental para o encaixe de todas as peças do desafio que será apresentado. São três personagens muito diferentes uns dos outros, mas cujos destinos se entrelaçam em prol da procura da harmonia e de alguma paz. Tal como já nos habituou, Juliet Marillier tem a capacidade de atribuir as maiores cicatrizes e a maior coragem nos habitantes das suas criações. Mesmo após as maiores atrocidades existe uma força brutal que os faz continuar, mesmo que com vista à desistência pelo meio.

Blackthorne é uma personagem feminina magnífica, nada do género cândido e complacente, mas antes uma força da natureza indomável que já viu a sua família a arder, já foi violada e que agora se vê sob uma promessa aos Seres Encantados, cujo objectivo nem sequer consegue compreender. A determinação e a força com vista à vingança serão apenas igualadas pelo papel que Grim vai assumindo na sua vida. Também ele esconde segredos não revelados, mas nada o demoverá no que toca a proteger Blackthorne. E juntos passam por uma série de dificuldades, não só na resistência de Blackthorne a acostumar-se à companhia dele como depois pelas dificuldades e provas a que a população de Dalriada os colocará.

No outro extremo da trama temos Oran, que paralelamente vai descobrindo que afinal pode amar alguém e mal pode esperar pelo dia em que conhecerá Flidais, a sua prometida. Mas o encontro em nada se revela sequer perto dos seus sonhos ou reflecte sequer o calor trocado através de cartas com a sua prometida. Algo está muito errado e quando até o seu melhor amigo parece estar de costas viradas é em Blackthorne e em Grim que deposita as suas confianças.

O desenrolar do enigma tem tanto de mágico como de fervoroso. Só posso falar por mim, mas este foi um daqueles livros que me fez virar página após página de forma constante e viciante; o mundo à minha volta desaparecia e tudo o que via e sentia eram as imagens e as emoções evocadas pela escrita. O fim deixa muito em suspenso, mas quando pousamos o livro o que fica é um sentimento de ternura e de compaixão. Não interessa que idade se tem quando se lê Juliet Marillier, existe um nível de encantamento tal nas suas obras que o difícil é não nos deixarmos absorver por completo. Venha a restante trilogia! Gostei muito.
Profile Image for Choko.
1,202 reviews2,584 followers
January 17, 2016
*** 4.25 ***

A buddy read with my friends at MacHalo group, where fantasy is our life!

Dreamer's Pool is a fairy-tale fantasy of the kind that seems familiar, but is new, and haunting, and beautifully written... It draws you in, cocoons you with comfort and mystery, and keeps you there with the debt of characters and promises of a feast at the end of the road.

This is the first Juliet Marillier book I have ever read and am here to declare that it is not going to be the last!!! She writes in a quiet, but beautiful way, without overwhelming the reader with any extra distractions, using a deliberate style to lead you through the riddles of the plot, and delivers a satisfying, if well foreshadowed conclusion. The last is never a problem for me - we all know how certain stories end, but what makes them special is the way we get there.

The books' main heroes are Blackthorn, a tortured soul with tragic past, which has rendered her spirit and left her with nothing else to live for but revenge, and Grim, a quiet giant with "a face only mother could love", and a temper, which loss of control has landed him in many of bad situations, leaving him with the belief that he is unworthy of love or human caring. Time has left deep scars in their souls, their bodies are older beyond their ages, their faith in all good and pure lost long ago.... After long term incarceration in a filthy prison where they meet, circumstances conspire to bring them together on an adventure to a foreign land. Blackthorn is bound by a promise she has made to a Fae for the next seven years and Grim feels he has to protect and take care of her, despite of Blackthorns' resistance to the idea and her prickliness. Enter the prince and his betrothed, making a mess of our guys' plans to live quietly and intrigue free.

The prince and his girl are paragons of virtue and can get too over the top with their holier-than-thou personas, but it worked OK for the fairy-tale it is. There is somewhat of a menage going on at one point with a servant and a dog, but that will make sense once you guys get to reading it!!! I liked the way other secondary characters had just as much debt as their importance required and no needles "fat" in the setting and world building, despite of the many possible occasions where that might have been a temptation.

I am a sucker for fairy-tales and have to admit that this might influence my rating, but to those who enjoy such, I heartily recommend this book and hopefully, the series. This book would be appropriate for all ages, I think, maybe PG 13, not exactly sure - kids nowadays grow up fast. There is no gratuitous violence and as all such stories, we root for the good guys:)

Thanks once again to the MacHalos and especially Casey for picking this one for the monthly read! I thoroughly enjoyed it!!!

Profile Image for Stacey.
1,446 reviews1,156 followers
April 23, 2017
From prison to wise woman…with a little help from Grim.

I read Dreamer’s Pool in book form…as in paper. I haven’t read a book with paper in years and I admit, I tapped a few times before I remembered to turn the page. I also kept looking to the top of the page to check the time. Who’d have thought that the act of turning pages in a book would become unfamiliar? By halfway I’d stopped tapping luckily and was fully engrossed in this wonderful tale full of adventure, mystery, magic and romance.

When I started Dreamer’s Pool, I was intrigued with the gritty and dark start to the story. Intolerable conditions had left Lady (aka Slut and Filthy Whore) beaten and nearly broken. Her fellow inmates were in the same condition, but the prisoner opposite, Grim, was always there to talk to in her darkest hour. The story starts the night before she is set to face the council to tell her story. Her imprisonment was due to her speaking out against the Chieftan of the area, Mathuin. He is an evil man and her life and thoughts are consumed with revenge against the injustices performed at his hands. She is approached by one of the Fey, Conmael, who has a proposition for her. If she is willing to abort her plans for revenge, he will help her escape. There are conditions that need to be filled and at first Lady is hesitant. She must leave, return to her old career as a wise woman and healer and head towards an unknown place with a new name, Blackthorn. She eventually accepts the conditions and finds herself on a new path…with Grim following close behind.

Grim hasn’t had it easy either. He was a giant of a man who’s nickname was Bonehead. Grim has a wee bit of a temper and a few times we see the red haze descend and take away his control. With no faith in himself, he feels comfort in Blackthorn’s company. He follows her to protect her, liking the feeling of purpose it gives him. To be honest Grim was my favourite character.

Their journey takes them to Dalriada where they serve as magical healer and handyman under the rule of Prince Oran. Prince Oran is himself on a journey…to true love. He is betrothed to a beautiful maiden named Flidais. They have been corresponding for some time and feel they would make a good match. Unfortunately on her journey to Oran an accident happens and Flidais’ maid is killed. When Flidais and her party arrive Oran is excited to see her. It doesn’t take Oran long to realise that the woman in front of him, might not be his dream woman after all.

Blackthorn, Grim and Oran must come together to work out mysteries and intrigues within Dalriada. Each face their own challenges and find help and support from the people of Dalriada, Conmael and each other.

While not my normal read, it was very enjoyable. Julie Marillier has an amazing ability to make you see the world she has created and believe that magic is real. I was in the head of each character and could feel the anguish, despair and loneliness each felt. I also enjoyed working through the mysteries with the characters and felt the satisfaction when everything was solved.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via the publisher, Pan Macmillan Australia, in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews839 followers
October 20, 2014
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier
Book One of the Blackthorn and Grim series
Publisher: ROC Hardcover
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Rating: 5 stars
Source: Review copy sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she'll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help.

Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais. He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love. But Oran discovers letters can lie. For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.

With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma. Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help. To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic.

What I Liked:

I've never read anything by Marillier, but I've heard such wonderful things about her and her books. I love fantasy, and there are some adult fiction writers whose fantasy I've always wanted to read. Marillier is one of those authors. I have no doubt that I will be reading more of her books (pre- or post-published) in the future!

Just so we're clear - this book is NOT Young Adult fiction, it's adult fiction. The protagonists are NOT young adults. Blackthorn is probably in her late twenties, Grim is probably about the same (or older), and the prince is twenty-two and about to be married (so *maybe* he could be considered a young adult. Maybe. But not really).

Blackthorn has been granted escape from prison by exchanging her desire for vengeance for her services to the services of the people of Dariada. There, with a former prison-mate, she will serve as a wise woman (basically, a healer). Meanwhile, the prince of Dalriada is getting ready to become betrothed to a lady Flidais, whom he has fallen in love with through their letters. An accident in Dreamer's Wood causes one of her maids to drown in Dreamer's Pool, and the lady is not the same after the drowning. The prince suspects that there is something wrong with the lady, and enlists Blackthorn and Grim's help in the matter. Something is amiss, and it will take some wit and magic to figure it out.

At first, I thought this book was all about Blackthorn, an angry woman who has spent a year in prison for trying to go after a nobleman who has been raping and impregnating innocent woman. But this book is also about Grim, a quiet and gruff man who has been quietly serving his sentence for an unknown crime. And it is also about a young prince who believes in romance and dreams and does not have a taste for blood sport and other things that princes should love. This book tells the story of all three of these people, and how their paths intersect.

I love this book. I love each character's story. I think the prince was my favorite perspective to follow - which is surprising, because the book starts with Blackthorn's, then Grim's, then Oran's (the prince). Usually, I like the character whose perspective I've seen first the most. But I liked them all!

Blackthorn is bitter over her past, and she has every right to be. She hates that she has to spend seven years in the service of those who need her help, before she can seek her vengeance. But she does a world of good for the people of Dalriada, especially the prince. Without her help, the situation with lady Flidais would not have been solved.

I'm glad that Blackthorn let Grim stick with her, and that Grim stuck around for as long as he did. Don't get the wrong idea - they are NOT lovers, or in love, or anything like that. They are platonic, friends if anything, but not really friends? They trust each other, they work together well, they make an excellent team.

The romance lies in the prince's story, but even that is not really romance... the romance in this book is very subtle and very not-so-important, compared to the other main plots of the book. Oran is totally in love with the lady who wrote him letters, but the lady who appears to him, the lady who went through a traumatic experience when her maid drowned in Dreamer's Pool, is not the same lady. His notions of romance and dreams of love are splintered when he realizes that he will never have that kind of marriage.

So there is a mystery to this book - I could not WAIT to find out how things would end. What is wrong with Lady Flidais - is she an impostor, or did she deceive the prince in her letters by having a scribe write them, or is she just completely traumatized over the entire experience of traveling to Winterfalls and then her maid drowning, etc.? I knew the ending would have to be all sorts of epic, and I was not disappointed.

The fantasy of this book is flawless. Wait - that makes it sound like the fantasy is part of this book, but that's wrong, because the fantasy IS the book. The world-building is beautiful and carefully constructed and excellent. I love the fantasy world that Marillier has created. It isn't explosive and remarkable and epic, but it is intricate and haunting and fascinating.

This book wrapped up really neatly, so I'm interested in seeing how this series continues. Hopefully we get to see how Blackthorn continues to struggle with her seven-year-sentence against vengeance. Maybe she will get a happy ending, at the end of the series. One can hope!

What I Did Not Like:

I can't really think of anything to say in this section, woohoo! Not that any book is perfect, but I can't think of anything.

Would I Recommend It:

I so would! I loved this book by Marillier, so I definitely want to read more of her books. I always hear about her amazing fantasy and breathtaking romance - I was hoping for more of that romance in this book, but somehow, with the way this story was woven, I wasn't disappointed. Fantasy in adult fiction - for those of you who love this, check out this book!


5 stars. Well deserved, well earned. I'm so glad I decided to give this book (and author) a try. If you're interested, there is a giveaway happening on Goodreads until October 28th!
Profile Image for Angela.
3,198 reviews368 followers
March 23, 2021
26 April 2020: $1.99 on Kindle

The first Juliet Marillier book I read was Shadowfell, and I adored it. I adored that whole series. I've been anxious, ever since, to pick up another book/series by her for a long time.

Finally, I was able to squeeze this start to a new fantasy series in. Dreamer's Pool is the first book in the Blackthorn and Grim series. And the two title characters, I absolutely adore.

We first meet them both in a prison. Blackthorn thinks tomorrow is to be her "day in court," so to speak. Unfortunately, the powers that be have different plans - ones that will result in Blackthorn never seeing the light of day. Grim has the cell across from her. His only thought is of her safety, even when he knows what is to happen.

That night, a mysterious visitor appears offering a deal that's too good to be true. Yet, what choice does Blackthorn have but to accept it. This delays her vengeance and justice for seven long years, but the alternative - no justice at all - is unbearable. So Blackthorn accepts, and makes the long journey north as bid....with Grim following along behind.

This is told in multiple first-person points-of-view. There's Blackthorn, Grim, and the prince of Dalraida - Oren. I really enjoyed all of their voices, even though Grim's stuttered way of thinking did take me a bit to get used to. I appreciated how different their voices truly were, how unique they were to themselves. And I can't help but want to know more - especially about Grim's past.

The story itself meanders a bit to get to the point. For a good deal of the book I know what happened, even if I can't figure out how. So it was slightly frustrating that it took so long for everyone else to figure out. Granted, we had everyone's point-of-view, and they only had their own, but still, that's one of the disadvantages of this kind of storytelling.

All the same, I did enjoy the pace and the world. This is a beginning, a fairy-tale-like set-up to this new world. We get bits and pieces, and just the barest mention of magic. I'm dying to see what Conmael is up to (and who he actually is to Blackthorn). I already mentioned wanting more of Grim's past. And I'm eager to see Blackthron settle more into herself - though I know (and am glad) that her thirst for justice/vengeance will not wait for eternity....maybe just long enough to see it done.

Dreamer's Pool didn't grab me quite as completely as Shadowfell did, but I am definitely happy I read it, and excited to go on in the series.

3.5 Stars.
Profile Image for Magirosa.
15 reviews4 followers
December 1, 2014

Sigh. Big Sigh. I am disappointed in this book for the strangely harsh treatment of female sexuality. However, I must also say, that I love the Blackthorn and Grim characters and would love to read more of their emergence into this strange new life to which they have committed themselves. I also have such a longstanding respect for Ms. Marillier that I will chalk this one up to an unfortunate derailment.

Elements I like:

Friendship as a central theme: I love how Ms. Marillier introduces the complex and sometimes challenging friendship between Blackthorn and Grim. I love the slow unfurling of each character’s backstory as well as the developing trust and reciprocal respect and affection that grows. These are two of my favorite characters amongst so many beloved ones in Marillier’s impressive collection.

Geis: I really enjoyed the prominent use of a geis as the motivation and challenge for Blackthorn and by extension Grim. I think that this is such a wonderfully nuanced theme to play with. I enjoy Blackthorns struggles and frustration with it, even as it is in some ways calling her to be her best self.

Conmeal’s Character: Ah, in addition to Blackthorn and Grim, I have a real interest in learning more about this mysterious fey character, layer of geis and sometimes protector. More please.

Mystery: There is something lighter and fresh about this book, which I think may be owing to the mystery form the story follows. I have loved Ms. Marillier's books since I first read Daughter of the Forest and revel in the complexity and depth to which she is unafraid to delve. However, I find, somewhat to my own surprise, that I also can appreciate this book’s more brisk pace.

Multiple Points Of View: Something that I rarely like is when the narrative switches between two or more 1st person POV. Often this device is used to get into the antagonist’s POV and something about that unusually irritates me. However, in this case I find that I look forward especially to the contrasting and building narrative between Blackthorn and Grim. I appreciate how the voice for all three characters is nuanced and genuinely feels like the thoughts of three individuals.

Elements that I didn’t like:


Sexual Girl is Evil: It truly pains me to write this. I have loved all of Ms. Marillier’s books and have grown to trust her handling of women in her writing. There are often difficulties that arise for the female characters in the male dominated power structures in which they exist in her books and I have always found that the author handles these complex circumstances with appropriate demonstrations of strength, tenacity and intricacy. As a result, the author in past books has somehow managed the difficult task of communicating the mores of the culture and time without seeming to fall into sex shaming.

However, as I progressed through Dreamers Pool I was disturbed to find that there was a pervasive theme of sex shaming. More specifically, with the introduction of the growing suspicion surrounding Flidais’s character, I began to notice that the warning bells were being set off repeatedly by her sexual overtures to Oran. What I mean is that, while she does say several things that seem inappropriate to the queenly Flidais of Oran’s imaginings, it was really her sexual manipulations and dramatically inappropriate sexual overtures (witnessed by others beyond even Oran himself) that make it clear to the characters and, more importantly, to the reader that she could not possibly be the real Flidais.

Here is what troubles me about this:

I find it regrettable that the only consensual sex featured in this book full of rape and pervasive abuse of female characters (which in Blackthorn’s and the village girl’s cases lead nearly to their deaths), is used as a primary basis for establishing the antagonist’s character as nefarious, manipulative and dangerous.

Oran refers to Flidais’s sexuality as her “weapon” more than once. Weapon, really? This seems so extreme and falls painfully into a lexicon of sex shaming from which we, as a culture, are trying so painfully to extricate ourselves. This is the same basic principle that supports the notion that women must behave and dress in certain ways in order to mask their inherently dangerous sexuality, else men will be powerless and victimized. This worldview is why female rape victims are asked what they were wearing with a startling frequency whereas male rape victims are seldom interrogated in this way. I mention this because what we read does affect how we think and I have long loved the type of female characters and how they are portrayed in Ms. Marillier’s work. I was disappointed to see her reflecting a set of beliefs that are truly damaging to our young women: one where virginity and sexual modesty are paramount for determining a woman’s value.
When it is revealed that the Flidais character isn’t really the noble born Fidelis but instead just a low born commoner Ciar it implies only women of less regal bearing, those more base and common, would express sexual agency.

Ciar’s singular “crime” is being sexually manipulative. In my opinion, looking objectively, Ciar’s character is essentially an innocent. She is caught up in magic that is out of her control; that she didn’t desire nor orchestrate and cannot reverse, let alone even understand. Yes, her response to keep it secret after she witnesses her own physical body’s death, may be regrettable but hardly evil. And perhaps keeping it a secret is even understandable; who should she tell? Would she even be believed or would she more likely risk being simply shut away as presumably insane? From this vantage point she seems to have a horrible fate assigned to her, for being essentially a victim. This seems like a life/death sentence (life span of a dog is so much shorter) for her character whose only wrongdoing, besides being petty and less progressive in her thoughts (yet still comparable to her contemporaries), is that she is not a virgin and likes sex.

End comments on this topic: I would have preferred that there were other actions taken by Flidais/Ciar to merit her as the as the book’s primary antagonist. The way the book is currently structured, I would have rather done without the sexual aspect of Flidais/Ciar’s character all together. I think that it would have more clearly communicated her character’s weakness and lose nothing with the omission. I also could have done without everyone who knew Ciar when she was a servant having to mention her sexual behaviors. It just seemed surprisingly one-dimensional for our key antagonist and far below the normal complexity with which Ms. Marillier typically handles her villains.

Profile Image for Jo.
1,120 reviews60 followers
November 5, 2015
November 3-5, 2015
So I was just going to read the first part of this book to remember the characters and such, but the story just drew me in and I found myself reading it again and enjoying it very much!

November 4-8, 2014
I am so glad I splurged and bought this book the day it was released. It was truly a great book, and it ranks right up there with my two other favorite Marilliers - Heart's Blood and Daughter of the Forest. Blackthorn and Grim are some of the most flawed yet perfect characters I have ever read. Their tale broke my heart. It always hurts to know just how evil humans can be to one another. We never get to hear Grim's backstory though which was pretty clever on Marillier's part. If you needed a reason (which I don't) to read the next book, learning Grim's tale would be a good one.

The story was magical. So much so that I wanted to savor each word and draw out the book, yet I rushed toward the ending to see the outcome. You really come to care about the characters and want to see things work out. Even the secondary characters are fleshed out and realistic.

I loved the shout out to Daughter of the Forest letting us know that Sorcha and her brothers were not too far removed from this story. I have so many books in the TBR pile, but all I really want to do is lose myself in a Marillier book even if it is one I have already read. There is something about her writing draws you in and keeps you spellbound.
Want to read
May 16, 2016

To steal the words from my lovely Anna: Buddy Read with the Snake to my Badger....

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Oh and yes...there WILL be fangirling. Much much fangirling...but you are all used to that...right?! :P

Anna used the original art from Emma Ehrling to create her pic (AND SHE ROCKS HEHE).
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books701 followers
May 27, 2019
I'm sad to say this didn't work for me. You'd think it would have been made for me! Juliet's dreamy writing! Celtic folklore! A murder mystery! Unfortunately, it was incredibly straight forward, reiterated a hundred times and lacked the subtle magic that impregnated the other two series of hers I've read. Also, it was the rapity-rapiest book that ever talked about rape.

CONTENT WARNING (no actual spoilers, just a list of topics)

Things to love:

-The set up. Juliet does a good geas and I was excited to see where this would take our characters.

-The titular characters. They're a great team--supportive, perhaps a bit enabling, but a good match for each other and I like that they subvert gender expectations.

-The world. It's another great setting for her storytelling, with lots of options to explore and a tangible quality to it.

Things that didn't work for me:

-The plot. I had solved it within the first 100 pages. In fact, while I knew what had happened, I think my "how" it happened would have been less offensively unjust. The rest was straight forward, with weird character decisions sort of haphazardly made throughout the book so that our blind rats in the maze could stumble into the next plot point. There were even built in deus ex machinas!

-The other characters. They were all so flat! So many could have been interesting like Donagan and Sochla and Emer but they all felt rushed or overlooked.

-The POVs. She was trying for a GRRM-esque unveiling of the full story, but what ended up happening was that we reiterated the previous chapters from each of the three characters' points of view, reminded the audience what these characters were feeling/had been through and maybe got a little more of the puzzle. I could skip whole pages and still understand where we were, who we were, and what they were thinking.

-The story structure. Not only did the POVs mean we repeated a lot of information, the structure of the story meant that we went through it as we lived it, and then we lived through it at a council, and then we relived it as the truth was revealed. So really there's about 100 pages of stuff that happens in this book and we tell it 3 times.

-The treatment of rape. Before I go into spoilers, I'll say that previously, I had believed that Juliet was one of those authors who completely understand the hell she's putting her characters and her audience through. She'd always been respectful of that and accounted for the response her characters provided in ways that felt natural and complete. This book, it's window dressing, and I really can't stand that. Real spoilers follow--

-The ending. Wow. This has to be the messiest ending I've ever seen her write! Really unsatisfying. Real spoiler here--
Profile Image for Emma.
2,437 reviews829 followers
July 16, 2016
4.5 stars. My first Juliet Marillier and I picked a good one! I liked our world weary and flawed main characters Blackthorn and Grim. Loved the dreamy fairy tale quality to the story, it seemed timeless and magical. I will definitely read the next in this series.
I am still not sure if the rest of Juliet Marillier's books will be for me, despite how much I loved this one. I often see the word 'romantic' used to describe her work and I'm quite picky about what romance I can tolerate! So if anyone can recommend anything else by this author, all suggestions gratefully received.
Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,125 reviews1,202 followers
December 12, 2021
1.5 stars

Marillier’s Sevenwaters trilogy remains special to me, enough so that I’ve read a rather embarrassing 13 of her books, counting this one—although none of the others quite measured up, and the last two Sevenwaters follow-ups were downright awful. So much so that I swore off her writing entirely. But that was nine years ago, and I got curious about whether I’d still feel the same way, and whether this trilogy—which has attracted some love, and which features Marillier’s only heroine past her teens—might be different.


It starts out promisingly, with two mistreated prison inmates making a break for freedom. Blackthorn is a standoffish woman in her 30s who’s been falsely imprisoned, and Grim, a quiet, hulking man with whom she’s formed a tentative friendship on the inside. Both have mysterious pasts, only traces of which are revealed in this volume. After a journey, they fetch up in a village under the jurisdiction of the naïve, idealistic young Prince Oran, whose arranged bride has just turned out to be the opposite of what he expected. Blackthorn sets up as the new village healer and the pair eventually get drawn into resolving some local mysteries.

The good: Marillier actually is a good storyteller, and even though I didn’t find this a good story, the writing still had me wanting to continue despite my better judgment. And although the book rotates among the first-person points-of-view of Blackthorn, Grim and Oran—usually a terrible idea—the three are reasonably distinct from each other, and Blackthorn’s and Grim’s voices even reasonably believable. And I like at least the idea of Blackthorn and Grim as characters, even if the execution often fell flat.

The bad: The plot plods along, generally in-your-face obvious. The characters ring a bit false to me, giving off the vague sense that they all had a degree in social work in their past lives. Prince Oran is utterly cringeworthy and does not read like someone socialized as male, though I did believe that Grim was. The dialogue is rather stilted. The resolution of certain fairy-tale-esque elements feels mechanical. A fae man reliably steps in to help Blackthorn out whenever she needs it without any motive revealed in this book, which leaches the story of tension while making him seem like a recurring deus ex machina and entirely un-fae-like. The medieval Irish setting is soft-focus and does not particularly seem to have been researched; while this is perhaps a feature of Marillier’s writing rather than a bug, elements like the prison and the samizdat-publication method of opposing a bad chieftain are anachronistic. And finally, a disappointment perhaps only in a Marillier book, no romance! It appears Blackthorn and Grim’s friendship will turn romantic in later volumes, but at this point there’s no attraction, no yearning, no barriers to their being together. I never did get emotionally engaged.

The ugly: Oof, these themes!

On female sexuality: There’s always been a subtle Madonna/whore dichotomy in Marillier’s work: her heroines only ever have consensual sex with one man, their True Love, they have it for emotional rather than physical reasons, and they almost always wait till mutual commitment has been reached. Her villainous females are the opposite, typically using sex to manipulate men. In most of her books it isn’t that obvious: her heroines, after all, are young and lack sexual opportunities, while she doesn’t have that many female villains and their sexuality isn’t necessarily the focus. But in this book it is extremely obvious. All sympathetic women are chaste despite having opportunities, while the one unsympathetic one has promiscuity as her most important characteristic. There’s even a weird bit where a rape victim’s chastity is called into question and the characters respond with “That shouldn’t matter.... but anyway she was totally chaste!” If it doesn’t matter then maybe Marillier should have let the girl have some sex and made the characters deal with it.

On True Kings and social justice: This is the second book I’ve read in the last few months to try to combine these elements, which do not belong together. Oran is a gag-worthy True King stereotype, with all these idealized traits: studious, hates hunting for sport, seeking his True Love, builds relationships with his subjects, etc. etc., and so his parents disapprove of him, but also he’s a strong leader who’s great at presiding over tribunals and dispensing justice! Ugh, please, someone just shoot him. And at the same time the book is pushing Oran on us relentlessly, it’s also pushing a more bottom-up, cynical view of power through Blackthorn and Grim, and the two wind up combining to suggest that absolute power is totally fine as long as the person wielding it is a Good Person. Ugh, no. And while a bad character points out that spending your whole life as a body servant at someone else’s beck and call sucks, a good servant assures us this is perfectly fine and won’t at all get in the way of a satisfying family life.

On rape and criminal justice: A turning point for Blackthorn and Grim, in deciding maybe they can trust the system and Prince Oran, involves a rape trial, after which he consults Blackthorn and Grim for their thoughts on sentencing. The problem? Neither Blackthorn nor Grim was the victim of the rape! They were victimized by the same offender, but in a rather less profound way. There’s a lot of talk about how the young woman who was the true victim can’t be there due to her injuries and needs people to speak for her, etc. etc.—um, why? She hasn’t lost her voice, someone could go interview her, and there’s no indication she’s been given an opportunity to ask for the trial to be delayed or actually choose someone to speak on her behalf; Blackthorn just takes that on herself, and makes no attempt to get the girl’s views on sentencing before imposing her own. And yet the book acts like some sort of ideal justice is being done.

On recognizing an abuser on sight: According to the book, you can totally do this. To the point that when Blackthorn has doubts about how an apparently nice young man might respond to stress, characters we’re supposed to agree with explain that she’s just unable to see his obvious goodness due to her own baggage. Look, I don’t know what world Marillier lives in, but the prototypical abuser comes across as a wonderful person. Blackthorn might be overly suspicious but she’s also right.

At least now I know I haven’t been missing anything!

NOTE: I find it… odd… that the covers for this trilogy depict women with three different hair colors, none of which are that of our leading lady, who is explicitly described as having short red hair! Oops.
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