Review: Dreamer’s Pool

Posted: March 22, 2016 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Juliet Marillier, Fantasy

From the cover: “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 convince 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.”

DREAMER’S POOL: A BLACKTHORN & GRIM NOVEL by Juliet Marillier (Amazon) begins with Blackthorn in prison and her execution immanent–after starting (and not yet finishing because of slow starts) three books by big-name authors I usually enjoy, I loved how this book sucked me in so quickly. Sure the writing isn’t as slick as those big-name authors, but I still enjoyed the story and characters.

Blackthorn and Grim are haunted by their pasts–hence their current prison predicament–pasts which take their time being told. In the meantime the current story requires their attention and despite Blackthorn’s insistence on working alone, Grim follows along and teaches her the value of accepting help. They are an odd couple, but as with odd couples it’s their very different personalities and abilities that makes them a successful pair–even if it’s a struggle for them to come to this realization.

Oran and Flidais both are described as “unconventional”, nobles who are down-to-earth and intelligent beyond their tender years. This bothered me a little, seemed too wishful; not that I prefer grim realism, because I don’t, but it bordered on cliché. Combine that with usage such as “turning of the moon” instead of “month” or “hand-fasting” instead of “marriage”, and it felt like Marillier was trying too hard. Sure the book is set in an ancient Ireland, but I still had trouble with the formal dialogue and inconsistent usage.

In exchange for help escaping her wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance.

Fortunately these problems didn’t get in the way of fairytale-like storytelling. The story was entertaining, if not deep, more of a medieval whodunit than your average fantasy plot with a princess who wants to marry for love and an invading king for tension (okay, these things did exist in this story to some extent). It isn’t hard to figure out what really happened, but it’s the difficult decisions Blackthorn and Grim must make that will really leave you guessing.

The magic was pretty simple since it mostly comes from the elves and the wood near where they live; potentially Blackthorn as a midwife can use magic, but she avoids using it. This simple magic works as a foundation, but since DREAMER’S POOL looks like this is the first of a series, here’s hoping Marillier builds on the magic and the characters.

  • Recommended Age: 16+
  • Language: A mere handful
  • Violence: Minor instances
  • Sex: Referenced often; a few brief scenes

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