Author: Juliet Marillier.
Published: November 4th 2014 by Roc Hardcover
Sort: Blackthorn & Grim #1.
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.
People who follow me for a long time might get tired of this, but I’m going to repeat it again: I love Marillier and she’s one of my favorite authors. Her books always have something magical to me and while this first book didn’t live up to Daughter of the forest, I really enjoyed it and I’m impatiently waiting for the sequels.
Blackthorn and Grim share a prison. They are both captives for different reasons, but it is clear that Blackthorn is deeply traumatized and broken by something that happened in the past. She is out for revenge after she will be released, until she hears they are not planning to let her go. A mysterious guy offers her a way out. Desperately she takes his offer and conditions, which ends in her and Grim living in a small house tuck away in the forest in Dalriada.
This happens to be the place where Oran is going to live with his soon-to-be-bride. The naive boy has fallen in love with her kind words and portraits, but when they meet she is nothing like he imagined. He approaches Blackthorn and she finds out that something disturbing is going on with Flidais. I’m going to start right away with saying that Blackthorn isn’t the easiest character I’ve seen. Marillier’s other protagonists are much more likable, but slowly you get to see what Blackthorn had to suffer through and it made her actions understandable. She is afraid to let people close and it is hard to adapt to her new life while her rage is consuming her. I saw glimpses of a sweet personality that she hides underneath her harsh mask and I think we will see great development of her.
Grim’s POV felt a bit unnecessarily to me, but at the same time I loved the different writing-style Marillier used to give him his own voice. There is more to him than we’ve seen so far and I’m curious about his story. I feel his POV was mostly meant to show another side of Blackthorn, but I could have done without it. Oran wasn’t too bad. He already changed throughout the story and he has a good heart. I already saw the twist coming about what happened to his bride-to-be, but I was still impressed how it was handled.
Another thing I appreciated was the lack of romance for Blackthorn. Marillier always stays away from the typical love-triangles and insta-love. Instead, she creates a beautiful world and interesting characters. It is also clear Blackthorn isn’t ready for romance, so it’s good she doesn’t force it into the story as a cliché most YA books seems to fall for. If you have never read a book by this author before I suggest taking a look at her other work first. You could always take a look at my reviews for Heart’s blood and Wildwood dancing. I think this book will mostly be loved by firm Marillier fans.
“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.”