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Dreamer's Pool (Blackthorn & Grim) Hardcover – November 4, 2014
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“Dreamer’s Pool is a fabulous read, a rich tale that resonates of deepest myth peopled by well-drawn characters who must sort out their personal demons, while unraveling mysteries both brutally human and magical.”—Kristen Britain, New York Times bestselling author of the Green Rider series
“A simply gorgeous story…a tale that will tug at your heart and, like the fable that it draws upon, linger in your head and soul for days afterwards. I cannot wait for the next installment in this series.”—Karen Brooks
“Filled…with beauty, wisdom and wonder—she's one of my all-time favorite authors and I only wish that she would write faster. A new book by Juliet Marillier is always a cause for celebration.”—Kate Forsyth
“[A] world full of enchantments, devotion, heartache, and mystery…
deliver[s] a tasteful feast for the imagination.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.46 pounds
- Hardcover : 448 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0451466993
- ISBN-13 : 978-0451466990
- Dimensions : 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
- Reading level : 18 and up
- Publisher : Ace; 1st Edition (November 4, 2014)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #396,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Blackthorn and Grim go from being imprisoned and awaiting their doom to on the road to possible redemption. Though the characters may not see it that way, the path is inevitable. Though dragging her heels all the way, Blackthorn agrees to an arrangement with the fae, Conmael. She will become the wise woman to the people in northern country. Grim tags along because after surviving imprisonment with her, he cannot imagine life without her.
There are social themes going on throughout this book, and they are not at all subtle. According to the author’ acknowledgments:
“A high-profile abduction case was in the news when I was writing Dreamer’s Pool, and undoubtedly played a part in Blackthorn’s driving need to see abusers of women brought to justice.”
The other predominant theme is that image is not truth. The young Chieftain’s daughter Flidais has an appearance that belies her personality. Blackthorn is not young and beautiful, yet she is the heroine in this story. But most of all Grim, who’s large shape and odd manners have earned him the name of Bonehead. Grim’s boneheadness is quite debateable.
While a major aspect of the plot is the solving of mysteries by Blackthorn and Grim, there is so much more to the story. The place, though not specifically identified, appears to be medieval Ireland. The social and political setting is pivotal and fascinating as are the relationships between Blackthorn and Grim and all the neighbors in the area they have newly settled.
However, I have to say, the reason I like this book so much is Blackthorn. Like I said earlier, she is not young and beautiful. She is opinionated, strong, very smart and a damn good healer. She is also anti-social and plays the role of wise woman only because she made a deal with the devil.
Speaking of the devil, who is really a fae named Conmael, you never find out his motivation. Perhaps that is on purpose, meant to keep you coming back for more. If I keep reading this series, will I ever know? I don’t know, but I also don’t know if I care. While Conmael is a major thorn in the side of Blackthorn, there is so much more to the story, that I kind of forgot about him. Often.
I listed to an awesome audiobook recording of Dreamer’s Pool. It featured three narrators, Scott Aiello, Natalie Gold and Nick Sullivan, to represent the three different points of view: Blackthorn, Grim and Prince Oran. The recording is well worth spending the extra few bucks if you bought the kindle version and if you enjoy audiobooks.
As it turns out, this books has been well like by others. It is the winner of the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel (2014). From me, Dreamer’s Pool gets 5 stars! And in return, I have a new book for my favorite’s list, along with several more books to read by Juliet Marillier.
OK so yes there is a long list of trigger warnings (though somewhat less than a lot of other fantasy I’ve read) but please do not let that put you off this book. It was really utterly gorgeous in my opinion. I will admit that Oran’s POV got annoying (especially in the audio – I had to switch back to the ebook to get this one finished), but Blackthorn and Grim were fantastic, and I really cared about both the main mystery and the side mystery they were all dealing with. I really enjoyed seeing Blackthorn slowly opening up after her ordeals alongside Grim who is just as broken in a completely different way. Honestly, I have a hard time really explaining what it is I enjoyed so much about this one – maybe the stories within stories themes running throughout? Not sure – just really awesome.
We are introduced to Blackthorn and Grim, who have suffered inconceivable torture at the hands of Mathuin of Laois. Sprung from the lockup by a fey nobleman named Conmael, who forbids Blackthorn from exacting her revenge, the two embark on a journey to Dalraida. The publisher's synopsis on the back cover gives a rather uninteresting description of events. I much prefer the author's synopsis from her website.
Blackthorn has faced so much pain, both emotional and physical, that she struggles to let anyone get too close. Having grudgingly accepted the fact that Grim will be her companion, and despite the fact that Grim was witness to much of her abuse, she keeps him at a distance. Throughout the book, her stubbornness tends to get exhausting, but, given her experiences, I cannot blame her.
Grim has his own dark past, but his history is not revealed in this book. Having Blackthorn close allows him to begin to heal, even if she is frustratingly resistant to his friendship. Grim may be cast as a simpleton, but he has an innate gift for seeing what others may overlook.
As for the task at hand, it becomes quickly apparent that something has changed Prince Oran's betrothed into someone that he, and even her own dog Bramble, does not recognize. Marillier always gives the reader just enough insight in measured doses throughout the book and expertly keeps the reader intrigued.
Having completed the entire series prior to writing this review, I can say with confidence that the world that Marillier has constructed in the Blackthorn & Grim series is one that will engulf you from beginning to end.
Top reviews from other countries
Dreamer’s Pool begins a brand new series called Blackthorn & Grim, starring the titular characters and set again in Ireland in roughly the same time period (we’re never actually given a date). My Ace Roc hardback features some stunning artwork, but don’t be fooled into thinking the ethereal woman on the cover is Blackthorn. Unlike Marillier’s previous heroines, we meet Blackthorn at her lowest point: filthy, lice-ridden, abused, awaiting trial in prison.
For anyone familiar with Marillier’s style, this is a significant departure. Previous heroines were younger, fresher, virgin and still under the auspices of their parents. As Dreamer’s Pool unfolds, we learn that Blackthorn once had a husband, child and a calling, but lost everything to a corrupt chieftain named Mathuin. To say she wants revenge would be an understatement. It is all she lives for, all she craves and it warps her reason to the point of irrationality.
The story begins when she’s offered a reprieve from the noose by a fey man, who demands she reclaim her healer’s skills and pledge to serve the people of a faraway region for seven years. Only when those years have passed will she be allowed to pursue her revenge. Blackthorn reluctantly accepts and so begins the first of her adventures, accompanied by a fellow inmate named Grim. The duo and their complex, platonic relationship pleasingly evoke a modern detective narrative without undermining the historical setting.
In another departure from her norm, Marillier employs three distinct points of view: Blackthorn, Grim and Prince Oran, who is both instigator and beneficiary of the duo’s investigative services. Oran has a problem: his promised bride, with whom he’s been exchanging letters, does not turn out to be anything like the woman he imagined. Although she looks like her picture, the resemblance ends there. Her personality is different, she doesn’t seem to be able to read and her devoted little dog, of whom she’d written so fondly, suddenly, inexplicably, hates her.
Oran’s trusted manservant believes his prince’s response is born of naivety. But Blackthorn comes to see – reluctant as she is to involve herself with anyone else’s affairs – that there is more to this than meets the eye.
Between them, these three characters handle the plot with the deftness of a master storyteller. Marillier is top of her game and there isn’t one wasted word or scene. Although some of these scenes depict little more than a council reaching a verdict on who will pay recompense for dead sheep, or the prince listening to the domestic talk of his subjects, the uncluttered prose ensures that the pace never falters. Indeed it’s quiet scenes such as these that bolster the story’s authenticity. From food to labour to class structure and correct social address, the setting is beautifully rendered. There’s a sense of local politics and underlying historical movement to all Marillier’s novels and the events in Dreamer’s Pool are set against a greater backdrop of conflict.
This is a good place to start if you’re new to Marillier. Blackthorn is refreshingly sharp-tongued and intolerant. She’s suffered injustices at the hands of men, which makes her distrustful of every one she meets. It takes her a long time to accept that Oran is the antithesis of Mathuin and her gradual re-evaluation of him embodies a fascinating character development.
Grim remains the most enigmatic of the three protagonists. While we eventually learn the secrets of Blackthorn’s past, Grim’s is not revealed, and it’s hinted more than once that his past is very dark indeed. The puzzle of Grim is one of the many reasons I’ll be picking up the next book in the series. Despite both Blackthorn and Grim ending up miles from where they began, both literally and figuratively, you get the impression that they have a long way still to go. The world that tore their lives apart is the same one that’s helping them to rebuild and both characters must learn again to live in it. Human hypocrisy and ignorance exist alongside human integrity and trust, a complex combination that Blackthorn and Grim are taxed with handling.
Dreamer’s Pool is a deft integration of magic, the hardships of rural life and courtly intrigue. It’s for anyone who desires a potent, earthy sense of place and a multi-layered narrative told through characters with distinct and fascinating personalities. There is much of the fairy tale about it and the resolution of the mystery is suitably magical, as well as dark. Marillier’s world is not a pretty one. It’s hard, cold and unjust. But it’s also real and immediate and will keep you reading long past your bedtime.
Look, far be it from me to tell you to read a book – but just read this book, pretty please. It was great, it was enchanting, it put a spell on me which I couldn’t break until I’d completely finished reading – literally in virtually one day!
In a nutshell the story is about a woman, wrongfully imprisoned who accepts help from the most unexpected source. Blackthorn, as she will become known, is a wise woman and healer. She has been incarcerated in a miserable, filthy prison for too long, the only thing sustaining her the dreams she has of bringing down revenge on the head of the man who destroyed her life.
The story gets off to an immediate start as Blackthorn finds out that she is to be murdered rather than given the opportunity to air her tale. At the same time, she receives a visitor, Conmael, a member of the fae who has an unusual proposition in which Blackthorn will give up her desire for revenge, will live a life of good far away from this place and provide help to all those who ask. In return he will save her life and see to her escape. And so a pact is made, of course, a pact with a member of the fae is not to be taken lightly. The terms between Conmael and Blackthorn will remain intact for seven years. If the terms are breached, a year will be added for every time the pact is broken.
And so Blackthorn escapes into the night. Followed closely by a giant of a man, and former prisoner called Grim. The two will find themselves travelling to the land of Dalriada where their services will soon become in great demand.
To be honest I don’t really want to go into the plot. It’s just a magical explosion of gripping story told almost like an adult fairytale. The writing is simply gorgeous and evocative.
The story is narrated in three different voices, Blackthorn, Grim and Prince Oran. Crown Prince Oran of Dalraida has finally chosen a bride and although this is an arranged marriage the two have exchanged letters and seem to be perfectly well matched. Most believe that Prince Oran is too sensitive, he cares about nature, he’s respectful to people regardless of station or sex and he enjoys reading and poetry. And yet, in spite of the doubts of some, his little neck of the woods seems to run smoothly, his people wish to work for him and work hard to please and the villages within his remit are pleasant places to live. And then there’s Dreamer’s Wood. One of the old places, on the edges of the realm, it has a mystical feel and walking under the dark canopy usually produces a feeling of being watched. Nobody really enters the forest. The ‘others’ are believed to dwell there and none will brave the unspoken menace.
Why did I love this so much. It’s difficult to pin down. I wouldn’t say I had any difficulty in second guessing certain elements of the plot and I’m sure that others would no doubt do the same. But, there are a number of different strands to the tale and more than the actual main story, which seems to have turned into a mystery that Blackthorn and Grim will become involved in trying to solve on the Prince’s behalf, there are little jaunts into side stories not to mention a number of occasions where we look back at Blackthorn’s past. I also really enjoyed the three main characters and alternating the chapters between them gave the story an added pace and a more rounded feel.
Blackthorn is a great character, twisted with anger and yet the chances she has been given have already started to have a positive effect. We have Oran, the thinker – and in fact forward thinker given the way most nobles behave. And Grim. I loved this character. He’s a great hulk of a man with a quick temper that once roused is usually followed by a blinding flash of temper resulting in the use of fists – and yet he’s afraid of the dark and has developed a strong devotion to Blackthorn. Both of these characters are badly broken and yet in coming together they are forming a strange bond that is helping them to heal.
On top of this we have a setting straight out of a storytime read. Castles, damsels in distress. Wicked nobles and scheming fae. What’s not to love!
I really loved this book.
The Blackthorn and Grim series, I bought all three together and am currently on Den Of Wolves, follows the story of two characters who get out of jail aided by Conmael ,one of the Fey, and their developing relationship. We find out Blackthorns back story whilst Grim is still a mystery to be discovered in the following book. The characters are real, definitely flawed which makes them so believable .Blackthorn helps the Prince Oran of Winterfalls solve the problem of his betrothed . Whilst the plot is blatantly obvious the tale is carried by the the depth of characterization and the intricacies of the writing. Normally I wouldn't bother with a book if I've worked out the story line so early on but Marilliers writing is so compelling I couldn't put it down. It won't work for everyone but if you like a story with more than an intricate plot then give this a go.
It still contains Marillier staples; old tales, transformation, redemption, strong minded women, men of all stripes (vicious, brutal, gentle, thinking, practical, strong and vulnerable), fantasy and historical setting. It just fits together so much better than some of the more recent of the author's offerings - Seer of Sevenwaters or The Shadowfell trilogy for example. And Blackthorn is a great MC, tough as old boots, seething with fury and bitterness, snappish and sharp tongued but also kind, compassionate and competent. I really liked Grim - I felt as if 'Dog' from 'Son of Shadows' had been given something of a second chance in Grim. Oran is a likeable enough character, no milksop although not exactly to my taste. As for Flidais, well I won't add any spoilers but it was great to see this paragon of noble virtue from the outside...eventually...
The story itself is seemingly simple; Blackthorn has been running her mouth in the wrong places leading to summary imprisonment pending trial. On finding she is to be executed with out a trial at all, Blackthorn is offered a choice by one of the fey (playing his own game as fey do) go to Winterfalls and help anyone who asks, or stay and die. Not much of a choice really. Escaping with Grim thanks to fey interference, the pair find themselves embroiled in a mystery that questions the true nature of truth and lies, fear and courage, revenge and redemption. There is also a passionately feminist voice in there, without there being any preachiness, about women standing up for better treatment, men and women according everyone respect and most importantly of all, of women not minimising another woman's suffering, or telling glib lies about men and their actions - which in turn make it so much harder for woman who are misused to be heard and believe. Women who may not have the power to rescue themselves. Men are not monsters, as Blackthorn comes to realise. Anger and bitterness can blind you. Women and men should all be supporting each other, as friends, partners and neighbours. Laudable goals.
I liked Blackthorn's caustic voice. I found the three first person POVs to be done well, I always knew who was talking as each voice was distinctive. The book came to a satisfying conclusion, whilst leaving me wanting the next instalment in the trilogy to find out what happens next. Deftly, skilfully done. I highly recommend this.
Dreamer's Pool is a boring, long, slow book. She makes it too easy to feel sympathy towards 'the good guys' and hate for 'the baddies'. This not only creates very two dimensional characters, it also destroys any tension or curiosity for them. Blackthorn is a particular boring one sided character who always gets described as 'strong' or 'filling the room with her presence' whilst none of this comes across when not pointed out. The end of the story is revealed fairly soon and the story unnessecarily drags on till it finally happens. I would'nt recommend this book.
Juliet Marillier captivated me with the Sevenwaters series. I highly recommend those books.