I've finally read a Juliet Marillier novel, and I feel like I need to make a check on my Science Fiction/Fantasy Authors I Must Read Before I Die list. I have had so many people recommend her, and I'm sorry to say it's taken me this long. Thanks to Nita Basu from Penguin, who asked me to review a new series by Juliet Marillier. Dreamer's Pool is the first in the new Blackthorn and Grim series, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There's something of the fifteen-year old fantasy geek left in me that just loves to read fantasy. Bring on the curses, mysterious woods, wisewomen, and ancient tales. You could even toss in a unicorn and I'd be fine with that.
Dreamer's Pool doesn't have a unicorn, but it does have everything else that makes a great fantasy novel, and a satisfying ending that doesn't leave you on a cliff until the next novel--but makes you look forward to reading more about Blackthorn and Grim. The story begins with Blackthorn and Grim as two prisoners in quite frankly, a hellish place. Blackthorn is a woman bent on revenge against Mathuin, a completely corrupt and evil leader. He's tossed Blackthorn into jail to rot. Grim is a fellow prisoner, who relies on Blackthorn (although she doesn't know it) to keep him sane. And just when it looks like Blackthorn is going to be executed, she gets a chance at freedom from Conmael, a fey creature. But there's a catch: she must live near the village of Winterfalls and provide care to anyone who asks her. And she must do this for 7 years; after that, she is free to pursue her vengeance.
So things happen (I'm not going to tell you!), and Blackthorn finds herself living in a small cottage at the edge of the woods--with Grim. Prince Oran is preparing to meet his future bride, Lady Flidais. He's fallen in love with her through her portrait and letters they've exchanged. He can't wait to meet her.
Except something strange has happened, and Lady Flidais is not the kind, sweet, loving person who wrote letters to Prince Oran. Yes, she matches the portrait to a "t", but her personality doesn't fit at all. What's going on? And how can Blackthorn and Grim solve the mystery? And what does it have to do with Dreamer's pool in the woods?
I would recommend this title to a teen starting out in fantasy, or anyone who likes Mercedes Lackey or Juliet Marillier's series Sevenwaters. It captures you from the first page and keeps you entertained the whole way through. Blackthorn is a woman who has suffered much, and struggles to keep her desire for revenge under control. Grim is her stalwart companion, who struggles himself to be rid of the nightmares of prison. There's a bit of magic, mystery, and mischief. Perfect for a cool Fall night.
Rating: 7/10 for an enjoyable start to a new series. Can't wait to read more adventures of Blackthorn and Grim!
Available in hardcover in November, 2014. Also will be available in e-book format.