Award-winning author Juliet Marillier "weaves magic, mythology, and folklore into every sentence on the page" (The Book Smugglers). Now she begins an all-new and enchanting series that will transport readers to a magical vision of ancient Ireland... 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.
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Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier is a beautiful fairytale full of broken characters and a disturbing mystery. If you are tired of worrying about romance ruining perfectly good friendships, but also kind of like the sweet naïveté of the adorable secondary characters sometimes, Dreamer’s Pool is probably your book. Dreamer’s Pool is also your book if you love writing that just keeps pulling you back in and character development that wrenches your heart but makes your proud at the same time. Basically, Dreamer’s Pool is rockin’ and the narration of the audiobook is pretty darn good as well! Note: I received an audiobook copy of Dreamer’s Pool from the publisher. Audiobooks change my experience with the story.
Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier Narrated by Natalie Gold, Nick Sullivan, Scott Aiello (Blackthorn and Grim #1) Published by Roc on Nov. 4th, 2014 Genres: Adult, Fantasy Length: 448 pages How I got my copy: Publisher
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.
Strengths: Blackthorn and Grim are both very troubled and broken main characters (so of course I adored them to no end), but they are balanced well with our third main character, Oran, who is such a hopeless romantic that I probably wouldn’t have been able to tolerate him without Blackthorn’s amusing assessments. Oran is not just a naive prince though, he is knowledgeable about the law and cares for his people, which makes it all the more amusing when he is confronted by surly Blackthorn and silent Grim ;-). You’d think that three points-of-view would be too much, but it worked quite well, with each character having a very distinct voice. The audiobook has three narrators, too, so that helped a lot. Each of the narrators portrays their character very well and I kind of want to find Grim’s narrator and just give him a hug! I can’t tell you the last time I came across an adult story with a man and a woman being JUST FRIENDS! Blackthorn and Grim are very clearly just friends from the start and it was so refreshing to see their friendship and trust develop without any worry about relationship angst. The writing and mystery of Dreamer’s Pool is so addicting. I found myself doing extra chores around the apartment, listening while walking and driving and any other excuse I could find. I even kept listening while icing my forehead from eyestrain! I just had to know what happened next!!! You find out very quickly that Blackthorn and Grim are in prison and it has been a very tough prison sentence. Thinking back on where they both were at the start of Dreamer’s Pool now that I know how much they grow and recover from their trauma, I can’t help but be impressed by the character development that Marillier smoothly pulls off. There are some seriously hairy issues in Dreamer’s Pool and I applaud Marillier for not shying away from them and giving Blackthorn a voice to shout what so many of us wish we could. I don’t want to give anything away, but there were definitely times when my eyes got quite big because I just didn’t expect Marillier to pull it off but she does! Dreamer’s Pool is the start of a series but stands alone quite well. You’ll be relieved to know that there will be more Blackthorn and Grim adventures though as soon as you’re at the end of Dreamer’s Pool. I certainly can’t wait to hear what they’ll be up to next!
Weaknesses: Oran’s narration is the one exception to the otherwise excellent narration choices. He has some quirks such as a very strange and rather annoying voice for Oran’s manservant and close friend. I was kind of relieved when that character faded to the background because he was so annoying to listen to at first. Major trigger warning for sexual violence in Dreamer’s Pool. Those tough issues I mention above? Yeah, they involve some pretty horrible things done to innocents. Nothing is graphically depicted, but I got sad just thinking about it myself so I want to make sure others are warned in case you’re more sensitive to those subjects.
Summary: Dreamer’s Pool is an excellent choice for fantasy fans and promises to be just the beginning for a great series. I was guessing right up until the end and am thrilled to have been able to listen to the audio version so I could fit in lots of extra reading time ;-). I am now quite convinced that I need to go read everything else Marillier has written because there is just something downright addictive about her storytelling!
Dreamer's Pool was an amazing book! A true fairytale full of darkness, despair and a fair amount of hope. As this is my first time reading Juliet Marilier I already know it won't be my last. Her writing has the perfect tone and flow to it, able to elicit from me a perfect balance of emotions that kept me wrapped up in the story and aching to get back to it at every chance. There are a handful of mysteries in this story and ache to be solved and each one leads in seamlessly to the next giving the reading experience that perfect pacing that I think must be so hard for authors to deliver. Indeed Marillier created amazing characters that I as the reader connected with immediately and felt were perfectly flawed in their humanity. The world building was given an excellent amount of attention and delivered in such a way that I never felt like it was too much or too little. It all call across in a natural way through the observations and daily lives of the 3 main characters. And speaking of characters....
A jaded woman with a dark and mysterious past.
Blackthorn - She starts out this story as the prisoner of a nasty High Chieftain named Mathuin. It's obvious to us that she has been wronged greatly in some way and accused of crimes that it doesn't sound like she committed, but it will be some long time the book before we find out all of the reasons she hates Mathuin. Imprisoned for the past year she has been beaten, abused and practically broken. And on the eve of her trial she is told that rather then honoring the law of every prisoner receiving a trial, the Chieftain is going to have her quietly murdered. But that night a fae, Conmael, comes along and offers her a bargain. Her life and freedom in exchange for 7 years of service in a town far away from there, where she must serve as a healer and wise woman to all those who ask for help as long as that help requested isn't something that would be harmful to themselves or others. She must cast aside her desire for revenge for these 7 years. So of course faced with certain death you'd take the bargain, and so she does. But it seems to be a bitter pill for her to swallow because she is still burning inside for revenge, filled with rage over all of the injustices visited upon her in the past she is surly and mistrustful and does not like the company of people let alone the thought of helping almost who ask.
The big hulking man is actually quiet and full of painful nightmares
Grim - A big strapping ogre of a man with a dark past of his own. He is a fellow prisoner in the same jail as Blackthorn. And the day Blackthorn's fae savior Conmael sets things in motion to free her, it is Grim who actually aids her in escaping. When he escapes as well he makes it his personal mission to be Blackthorns protector. She grudgingly allows him to accompany her to the town of Winterfalls where they set themselves up in a cottage bordering the mysterious Dreamer's Pool and Woods. He doesn't talk much and he is one of the main POVs but he doesn't get as much on air time as Blackthorn and the additional POV of Prince Oran but I definitely became attached to him and ache to know more. He suffers nightmares and because of that doesn't sleep much and when he does has a tendency to talk in his sleep. Even when he isn't sleeping at night he'll gibber jabber to himself. Something from the past haunts him and I am so intrigued to find out what it is!
The quintessential fairy tale prince
Prince Oran - He's everything you'd want in a fairytale prince. He reads, writes poetry, believes in romance, the stories and cares about his people and being fair to everyone. Sounds like the perfect man right? His parents believe him to be a complete dreamer with his head stuck in the clouds and insist he needs to settle down and get married and start doing his duties in preparation for when he will someday be king. He finally gives in because he just so happens to fall in love with the portrait of a young girl his mother has brought to his attention as a good candidate for marriage. He soon starts a heartfelt chain of correspondence with this young Lady Flidais that leads to their betrothal. But when Lady Flidais arrives she is not everything that he had come to believe from her letters. Indeed she is nothing like the Flidais of her letters and Oran is left with a despairing heart, crushed dreams and wonders who he can turn to in order to sort out the dilemma he is in.
I cannot recommend Dreamer's Pool highly enough. As with books that I adore if I start out listening to them on audio and fall in love with them I feel compelled to not only listen to the audio version but read the print version as well. (The spelling of many of the names was not what I expected from hearing the narrated version) I would highly recommend either format. The narration was done by 3 different narrators and was one of the best I've listened to this year (or ever even). The print always suits me as well when I want to really soak something in and feel like I need to revisit details at my own pace. This is definitely among my top pick of fantasy books for 2014!