Penguin Publishing Group | November 2015 | 464 pp
Dreamer's Pool is the first book of Blackthorn and Grim's series, featuring a pair of ex-prisoners of Mathuin, who is chieftain of Laois in northern Laigin. Mathuin is known to be cold and ruthless and an abuser to women. Blackthorn used to be a healer way before her family had perished under Mathuin's hands and she was held prisoner thereafter. She knew Grim when they were kept behind bars in Mathuin's dark place; although they hardly talk they have kinda formed a bond through each other's company.
When Conmael, a fey nobleman visited Blackthorn and told her he could help her to get out of that dark place, in exchange for her vow to to set aside her bid for vengeance against Mathuin and live in Winterfalls in Dalriada, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help. Blackthorn is skeptical at first but what more could she lose? Together with Grim, they travel to Dreamer's Wood and found their "home" there.
Oran is the crown prince of Dalriada and he is waiting for the arrival of Lady Flidais, who is to be his future bride. However, Oran has never met Lady Flidais in person and only knows her from a portrait, though they have corresponded through letters and somewhat knew each other sentiments through words. Lady Flidais finally arrives in Winterfalls, but she is not the woman whom Oran thinks she is. Although Lady Flidais' appearance resembles her portrait, her behaviour and speech prove otherwise. And with their marriage date drawing near, Oran is anxious and puzzled about Lady Flidais' mysterious temperament. He has heard from the community that Blackthorn is a wise woman and his people at Winterfalls seek her help be it medicinal or other matters. Oran decides Blackthorn might be the person he's looking for to unravel this mystery and Blackthorn knows she couldn't say no to his request, duty bound or not as the need to right the wrongs is too great. Together with Grim, Blackthorn will seek all the resources they can get and with or without magic, they will find the answer to Oran's quest even if it means facing their own personal demons.
Dreamer's Pool is one enchanting read. Filled with some folklore and mythology, Juliet Marillier has spun an unforgettable tale about family bonds and friendship, as well as courage and ingenuity to set things right. Blackthorn and Grim are both engaging characters, in particularly Grim, as he often plays the protector role and his characteristic shone throughout the story. A man of few words, Grim surprised me with his insightful views at times. Blackthorn is an intriguing character, but given her past history she is a little bitter and has this furious need to seek vengeance against Mathuin but given she is duty bound by Conmael, she gets on with her life day by day while waiting for the day for freedom to come. Told from three perspectives - Blackthorn, Grim and Oran, this allows readers to understand more of their inner thoughts. Despite a fantasy, there is a little mystery to this book and I liked how things are neatly wrapped up towards the end (the mystery that is, not Blackthorn's justice towards Mathuin though I'd be interested to see how it would solve in the end), thus it could read as a standalone.
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