Wednesday, May 19, 2021

TBR Challenge: Juliet Marillier - Den of Wolves

Healer Blackthorn knows all too well the rules of her bond to the fey: seek no vengeance, help any who ask, do only good. But after the recent ordeal she and her companion, Grim, have suffered, she knows she cannot let go of her quest to bring justice to the man who ruined her life.
Despite her personal struggles, Blackthorn agrees to help the princess of Dalriada in taking care of a troubled young girl who has recently been brought to court, while Grim is sent to the girl’s home at Wolf Glen to aid her wealthy father with a strange task—repairing a broken-down house deep in the woods. It doesn’t take Grim long to realize that everything in Wolf Glen is not as it seems—the place is full of perilous secrets and deadly lies...
Back at Winterfalls, the evil touch of Blackthorn’s sworn enemy reopens old wounds and fuels her long-simmering passion for justice. With danger on two fronts, Blackthorn and Grim are faced with a heartbreaking choice—to stand once again by each other’s side or to fight their battles alone

Comment: The theme for May's post of the TBR Challenge is "fairy tale/ folk tale" and I admit the first thing I thought about was Juliet Marillier's books, which often combine a little of both things. There's folk content based on ancient tales and the stories she writes have that vibe we are reading a fairy tale, in the sense there is a moral lesson to be learned from what the characters go through. I know others might have interpreted the theme differently, but my mind stuck on this and I went with it.

This is installment #3 in the Blackthorn and Grim trilogy, and I have enjoyed the previous stories quite a lot which means it was no surprise I'd get to this one too. In this book Blakthorn and Grim have settled a little in Dreamer's Wood, they have friends and allies and Blackthorn is only waiting for her deal with the fey Conmael to reach its end so she can start on planning her revenge. However, she bides her time helping others and having a quiet life while near several settlements where her skill as healer is often necessary. Things change when Cara arrives, sent by her father to stay at the prince's house while something is being built at Wolf's Den, her home. At the same time, Grim starts helping with the construction there and he is more and more curious over some strange things happening and he believes there are some dark secrets about the place. But how to know what is true and what is a lie? In the end, only their work as a team can solve the potentially deadly mystery...

I had a great time reading this one. I'm a fan of the writer, and I expected to be surprised positively, both due to the plot's mysteries and the characterization, which I think she excels at, and I was proved right. The plot is ingenious and so easy to fall into because there are always little things to be learned, to be known, to be guessed as each chapter goes by. I really like this sense every detail can be important and that the dots connect rather obviously if only we have the right clue or the right information.

How incredible it is for an author to pick an old tale, like mrs Marillier says at the end of the book that she found out about the tale which inspired this novel in a random book she was consulting, and from then on she imagined the whole plot and development. She does this in all her books, gives a body and a structure to a story which is, often, small, but then along with her characters and fascinating historical/fantastical settings, they come alive.

This is book #3 which means it's not a good idea to start here, not only because the characters have started to be developed in previous books but also because some references might be lost on a new reader. I actually think this was done well, there is some sharing of previous things but never to the extend of not reading would give the same kind of background. Plus, the first book was a delight, as they all are, with a perfect balance of darkness and hope to keep the reader immersed.

I was quite interested in the secret here, of why Cara had to leave and why did it matter the building being constructed had to be finished, why that way, what kind of secrets were being hinted... I confess at some point the truth became a little obvious, only why was the mystery, but the sense of urgency in some moments, the creepiness of some scenes kept me riveted even if I felt I could guess where things were leading. I think some details felt a little rushed closer to the end, because the big mystery was getting close to be solved and then there was only the matter of the main character's personal lives to be solved, so the author didn't languish, but despite having liked how the book ended, it was bittersweet, I didn't feel like saying goodbye to them.

I think the beauty of the book is how well is blends the weirdness of the fantasy elements with the realistic aspects of human emotions. Blackthorn and Grim are interesting characters but they embody values and notions and feelings that nowadays feel old fashioned but what a joy to have characters who you feel deserve a happy ending, who did mistakes and think wrong things but nevertheless act with truth and justice, I wish I could be as strong willed in my values and in the things I believe in. I'm happy they found their own happy ending.

I see there is another trilogy following this one and characters from this one will be there. I can't wait to get my hands on them, and see if the magic holds.
Grade: 9/10


  1. Great choice! I read Wildwood Dancing by this author years ago and loved it. Thanks for the reminder to get back to her books.

    1. Hello Dorine!
      That one I haven't read yet, the YA label puts me off a little...

      Thanks for commenting :)