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Review by Riley

About Dreamer’s Pool

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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Review of Dreamer’s Pool

I’ve discovered a new author/series that I am going to have to read. Dreamer’s Pool, book 1 of the Blackthorn & Grim series by Juliet Marillier, is part fantasy, part mystery and all delicious. I devoured every page of this story that was relentless in its pull. I.e. I could not put it down.

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.

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