Series: Blackthorn & Grim #2
Published by Roc on November 3rd 2015
Our reviews of this author: Den of Wolves
I read a whopping number of books last year. Like, the final tally was probably somewhere close to 200. And out of the dozens upon dozens of books, do you know which one stood out to me the most? Juliet Marillier’s Dreamer’s Pool. It should come as no surprise then, that its sequel Tower of Thorns is hands down my most anticipated novel this fall. Heck, most anticipated novel this year. We’re talking, if there’s one book I need to read in 2015, THIS. IS. IT.
So, please understand now when I say I need a moment to pull myself together. I’m still trying desperately to come up with the words to describe how I felt about this novel, without coming off as a gushing, fangirly lunatic. After all, it’s not every day that I get to read a book that I’ve been dying for, only to have that book exceed all my expectations.
What can I say? Tower of Thorns, you were utter perfection. Juliet Marillier, you are truly amazing.
Yeah, that whole trying-not-to-be-a-gushy-fangirl thing. Not really working out, is it?
Let me start again, all proper-like this time. Tower of Thorns is the direct sequel to Dreamer’s Pool. Theoretically, you can start with this book, though in my opinion you’d be doing yourself a great disservice if you don’t start from the beginning. Blackthorn and Grim have a very special connection, and being familiar with the story of how these two characters first met and came to be partners in Dreamer’s Pool made Tower of Thorns all the more powerful and touching.
Almost a year has passed since Blackthorn made her deal with the fey, buying her freedom and a new beginning by promising two things: 1) that she will travel to and settle in Dalriada as a wise woman healer, never turning away any request for help, and 2) for seven years she will stay there, putting aside her desire for revenge against Mathuin, the cruel Lord of Laois who destroyed her life and took everything away from her. Hatred for Mathuin and the need to see him brought to justice has made keeping her end of the bargain difficult, but Blackthorn is aided by Grim, her steadfast and taciturn companion who has stayed by her side since their escape from Mathuin’s dungeons.
However, peace is disrupted once again with the arrival of Lady Geiléis, a noblewoman who comes to beg Blackthorn for help with a monster of a problem—literally. A howling creature has taken up residence in an old tower on Lady Geiléis’ land, its mournful calls driving the surrounding populace to depression and madness. The tower is inaccessible due to a hedge of thorns surrounding its base, and it soon becomes clear that any means to vanquish the monster would have to be magical.
Have you ever wanted to peel back the layers of a fairy tale? Dive deeper into its secrets and investigate its puzzles? If fairy tales were turned into mystery novels, I think they would look very much like these books. And I couldn’t ask for a better detective team on the case than Blackthorn and Grim.
As characters, they are broken and flawed, but I’m more than a bit fond of them. Tower of Thorns is a defining book for both our protagonists, exploring the pain in their pasts. Blackthorn gave up a huge part of herself when she struck her bargain with the Fae, a part that she still cannot completely let go of, even if it will mean paying a steeper, more severe price down the road. Grim too is haunted by his own demons, his memories of blood and loss brought to the surface by the miserable cries of the monster in the tower.
I can’t deny Grim really stole the show in this one. As much as I admired Blackthorn’s intelligence and her strength in the face of overwhelming odds, my heart broke for Grim and the darkness he’s kept locked up inside himself for so long. A big, quiet man often dismissed as an oaf and a simpleton, Grim’s character actually holds the sort of depth rarely seen in fantasy fiction. His sincerity and unwavering loyalty to Blackthorn is what makes their relationship so remarkable and unique, reducing me to tears in the concluding chapters of this novel.
All this takes place in a world infused with as much darkness as whimsy, reminiscent of most fairy tale settings. And like many fairy tales, the themes of love and sacrifice are strong in Tower of Thorns. The courage of unlikely heroes is pitted against the malice and underhandedness of tricksters, both the mortal and immortal kind. Even the closest of friends will find themselves torn at a crossroads, faced with decisions that can change their entire lives. There’s no doubt about it, the gut-wrenching emotions that this book brought out in me made reading this sequel even more rewarding that the first book.
If you’re looking for a fantasy novel filled with irresistible characters and the kind of rich, evocative magic that will take your breath away, look no further than this brilliant series by Juliet Marillier. Tower of Thorns made me fall in love with Blackthorn and Grim all over again. Powerful and emotionally-charged, this tale will hold you absolutely spellbound. I highly recommend it.
This review originally appeared on The BiblioSanctum.