Thursday, November 6, 2014

Juliet Marillier - Blade of Fortriu

The kingdom of Fortriu has enjoyed five years of peace since Bridei came to the throne. Now the king is preparing for the long-awaited war that he hopes will see the Gaelic invaders driven from the west forever. The princess Ana, a hostage of Fortriu since childhood, is sent north to make a strategic marriage with a chieftain she has never met - and with it gain an ally on whom Bridei's victory relies. Her escort is led by a man she despises: the enigmatic Faolan, Bridei's assassin and spy.
The expedition is ill-fated, and when Ana arrives at the chieftain Alpin's stronghold in the mysterious Briar Wood, she is uneasy. This is a place full of secrets. When Ana discovers a prisoner kept within the bleakest of confinement, she is met with a conspiracy of silence. Faolan, tortured by an impossible love, walks a delicate path between loyalty and betrayal...

Comment: I've had this book in the TBR pile for years. probably 4 but it might be a bit more. I admit that I out of the reading of this book for two reasons. 
First, I knew it would feature a love triangle somehow, I saw something about it back then, although the blurb isn't completely clear about whom might be involved in the whole thing. I don't like love triangles that much because or it features three likable people and one suffers a lot or one of the them is a villain and then it feels weird.
My second reason is a bit irrational, for the first book in this Bridei Chronicles trilogy was one of the first I've read in English, when I had to struggle a lot to keep going. The experience wasn't that good so I dreaded to read about a world I thought I wouldn't enjoy again, but the truth is, I was just put off by my take on things when I couldn't read English that well and that affected my impressions. Thankfully, I've improved a lot and was able to confirm the writing is as good as any of the author's work and my impressions were purely mine and only adequate to that time frame.

I'll have to confess I no longer remembered much from the first book, but as this one's reading went on, I recalled some moments, some feelings from that read back in 2009 (IIRC). After a while I managed to immerse myself completely in this story and what a story.

Ana has been a hostage in Bridei's Court since she was 10 years old. She knew she would eventually marry someone important due to her family connections and heritage. In hopes to gain an ally in his war against the King Of Dalriada, Bridei sends Ana to Briar Wood, where she would marry their leader and hopefully help Bridei in his politics. But the man charged of taking Ana and securing a treaty doesn't hide from his distaste of her and the feelings are mutual. When tragedy strikes and hey are forced to help each other, their opinions of the other have to change too. And after meeting her future husband and being among the secrets of his house, how could Ana be the lady she thought she would and do her duty, how can she be blind to what is around her?

As always, this book is full of adventure, secrets and political maneuvers, something the author had us used to in her novels. This series, Bridei Chronicles, is set in old Scotland, or should I say where Scotland is now. In terms of writing, it seems the writing is more refined when compared to the Sevenwaters series I've previously read. Not that is better or worse, it just seems more focused, a bit more polished. Maybe it's my perception of things.

I liked the story, all the action steps and scenes are important, meaningful and well put to make the story feel richer and more intense. Many scenes made me want to do something to change what was happening because they had such an impact on me. I felt this story a lot and how wonderful to be able to count on mrs Marillier to make me feel it.

The love triangle, like I sort of predict it, was bittersweet. It really makes you think and commiserate when one of the elements is left out but I have so much hope for that character, I want to get my hands on the next book soon.
The characterization of all key players was amazing. One or two things could be different, but once again, personal taste. I liked how all the important charterers had to act, had to change themselves to help, to make things happen, to grow. The author did a good job in making everyone feel alive and affected by the things around them, giving more credit to everyone.

The politics can be interesting but I rad these more for the romance aspects and the fiction. So, I do confess some parts were a bit boring to read, especially when it was references to political things or things a bit obscure, which weren't as captivating to me. Still, it didn't ruin the book for me, just made it a bit slower at moments when I wanted to get to the action quick.

All in all, a great story, so many amazing details, a romance that makes you want happiness to be given and still secrets and possibilities to crave. Apart from some elements, quite the success.
Grade: 8/10

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