Friday, March 20, 2020

Juliet Marillier - Tower of Thorns

Disillusioned healer Blackthorn and her companion, Grim, have settled in Dalriada to wait out the seven years of Blackthorn's bond to her fey mentor, hoping to avoid any dire challenges. But trouble has a way of seeking them out.
A noblewoman asks for the prince of Dalriada's help in expelling a creature who threatens the safety and sanity of all who live nearby from an old tower on her land--one surrounded by an impenetrable hedge of thorns. With no ready solutions to offer, the prince consults Blackthorn and Grim.
As Blackthorn and Grim put the pieces of this puzzle together, it's apparent that a powerful adversary is working behind the scenes. Their quest soon becomes a life-and-death struggle--a conflict in which even the closest of friends can find themselves on opposite sides.

Comment: This is the second installment in the trilogy Blackthorn and Grim. I've read the first book last year and being a fan of the author, of course I would keep up with the series. This second book is, as predictable, another engaging and compelling read.

In this installment, Blackthorn and Grim are asked to be at court with Prince Oran and his lady, the couple who needed the help of Blackthorn in the first book.
Now a lady from a slightly distant part of the territory needs help and as Blackthorn is forced to help those in need as in agreement with the fey with whom she has a contract, she might not be able to refuse even if is something she feels might not be a good idea.
She believes she won't have to help after all, despite the obvious need in the lady's eyes, but a friend from her old life suddenly appears and what he tells her makes her change her mind. But are this friend's intentions good ones? Is the lady in need telling the whole story? Blackthorn and Grim must again unite strengths to see if they can solve these mysteries.

This story can be read as a standalone but I think any reader would gain so much more by reading the first book too. Some references and even some relationships have a better meaning in this book if one knows all the nuances of what happened in the first story.
Nevertheless, this story follows the usual pattern of all the author's books: a case/mystery to be solved while the protagonists slowly uncover all the details until the very end.

For those who like fantasy and Irish/Scotish/Celts tales, this is the right author for you. Her stories pick many old tales related to the fey, the old traditions, the old ways of those areas and she spins a fantasy story that enraptures the reader to want to know what happens next.
This is another book where we can see this, the lady that arrives with a request for help has some mystery to her and as the book moves along, we slowly uncover everything, even the things she doesn't share.

This story has a classic mystery structure, the surprises happen slowly while the tone and vibe indicate something is going on that we can't put a finger on but the author eases things up a little with the secondary plot about Blackthorn's friend. I confess I didn't care much about that part and I think this was here mostly to lead Blackthorn to a point where her personal life/inner struggle reaches a point of no return regarding her desire for vengeance. The next book is the last and this issue is certainly going to e solved there.

Blackthorn is, again, a fascinating character, her will for justice quite a demand we feel is fair but this means she remains a little unaware of her surroundings and of those around her. In some moments she also appears a bit obsessive but that might be just a personal opinion.
I should say there's a really small development in her relationship with Grim, one that readers very likely will welcome but it's not too obvious in the big scheme of things. Still, the feelings between them are strong and there are a few clues here and there about that, even if they don't act on those feelings.
I felt the evidence of this was easier to spot here, though, because we learn things about Grim and his past and why he has the personality he does... I have to say Grim is wonderful, no doubts on it!

As for the resolution of both plots, the one concerning Blackthorn's friend goes the way I imagined from a certain point on but doesn't affect things in a big way.
The central plot, though... that gives us a lot of food for thought and having finished the book, I still think about those characters and how things went for them. What happened belongs to the realm of many old tales and one could say, it was a fair ending. I just think it feels a little incomplete because the reason why the problem existed was not dealt with, as if it didn't matter. 

Anyway, all things considered, this was entertaining, addictive to read, the three different narrators made the plot mysterious not only because of the secrets each one had and how they didn't share every single detail but because it allowed the story to progress at a steady pace. There was some sluggish pace in the middle, yes, but my attention didn't waver...
I liked this one and I'm curious to see what happens in the last book.
Grade: 8/10

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