Title: Dreamer’s Pool
Author: Juliet Marillier
Rating: 4/5 stars
I was in a bit of a book slump so I had to run back to a tried and true favourite author: Juliet Marillier. I love the unique characters and the lore used in this book – though my favourite Juliet Marillier remains The Sevenwaters Series.
The story follows three point of view, each character distinct and complex. Their tale is intertwined, though they were each pushed the story forward via different personal agendas.
USUAL MARILLIER THINGS THAT I LOVED:
I. Strong Female Characters
Compelling female characters are the hallmark of Juliet Marillier’s writing. Her ladies can be strong, they can be maternal/nurturing figures, they can have a touch of magic, or even a physical handicap: but they’re always intriguing with an untameable spirit. I love them, and the protagonist of Dreamer’s Pool is definitely one of those classic Marillier heroine.
‘I’m not after personal redemption. I want justice. I want that man to admit to his misdeeds. I want him to pay the price.
Blackthorn is amazing. It’s not common to see an older woman take centre stage in fantasy, even less common for her to be so truly dark and prickly. She’s not easy to love, having been driven into a creature of spite and vengeance by Lord Mathuin. When we first meet her, Blackthorn has been imprisoned by Mathuin for over a year, during this time she suffered both physical and sexual abuse. Blackthorn is plagued by the need to exact her revenge throughout the entire book, and she’s understandably wary of all men.
However, a bargain with a Fey lord, Conmael – meant that Blackthorn had to set her vengeance aside and set out to the distant land of Dalriada. She’s tasked with aiding all who comes to seek her help for seven years before she can claim complete freedom. Through this story, we slowly see Blackthorn regain her humanity and her trust in people. We also see how fiercely intelligent, crafty, and practical she is. Nonetheless, she’s no perfect heroine – with a lot of her previous experiences clouding her judgement with anger.
II. Lovable Male Characters
Grim being a man of few words and all of them carefully chosen. We understood each other’s need for silence.
Get this, a male protagonist who is i) not handsome and ii) not romantically involved with the female protagonist! The dynamic between Blackthorn and Grim is an absolute breath of fresh air (though, being so accustomed to the beautiful romances in Juliet Marillier’s novel, I admit I was a little disappointed). Grim is basically a giant teddy bear, being physically strong but very much empathetic to both Blackthorn and other characters he encounters in the story. He served as Blackthorn’s moral compass at numerous points during the tale, her voice of reason when anger affects her Grim also possesses his own kind of intelligence, although his silence may initially be viewed as dimness at first. I really enjoyed reading his POV as his insights and views are different from many protagonists I’ve read.
They were private; secret; a precious bond between my sweetheart and me. I believed in the letters. I believed in true love, the kind from ancient tales
The other POV in the book is that of Prince Oran, his tale stands a bit separate from Blackthorn and Grim’s, and he also undergoes the most conventional story arc of the three characters. Initially an idealistic young man, caught up with fancies of love and an image he’s conjured up of his betrothed Flidais, Oran grows rapidly throughout the series. In fact, he is the character that underwent the most development in the tale. I enjoyed seeing his growth from Prince to King – and as he learns from his mistake.
III. Conflicts Rooted In Magic and Nature
Though the Feys only appeared during the beginning of the book, I felt the plotline in Dreamer’s Pool were still rooted in mystery and magic. The main plot follows the questions surrounding Flidais, who is totally changed after she almost drowns in Dreamer’s Pool. Although the ultimate reveal is a bit predictable, I did like the way the characters went around solving the enigma that is Flidais. I was a little bit uncomfortable with how feminine sexuality was portrayed, as far as Flidais was concerned – nor do I totally agree with how her storyline ended. Maybe I am being too sensitive? If you’ve read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts on it + anything else in the book!
This is a very character-centric book, so I felt that the plot was at times quite slow and plodding. Thankfully, my investment in the main three characters prevented me from drifting off to skim-land.
I look forward to reading more of Blackthorn and Grim’s future adventures, and thanks to Netgalley, I think I can get onto that very soon!