A friend of mine read the third book of Blackthorn and Grim, Den of Wolves, by Juliet Marillier. She suggested that I might really like the book.
So I got the audiobooks of all three books in the series and listened to them.
Recommendation: Worth the read, but the first two books outshine the third.
Book 1 – Dreamer’s Pool:
Blackthorn escapes imprisonment with three promises:
–Move north into a another king’s land and make her home at Winterfalls
–Use her gifts for good only
–Do not seek revenge for 7 years
When she escapes, a fellow cellmate, Grim, follows along. They become travelling companions.
Meanwhile at Winterfalls, a prince has chosen his bride and is ready to meet her, only she isn’t what he expected. The lovely lady of good heart who loves the forest, her dog, and writing is actually a anxious woman of frequent headaches and general rudeness.
Between Blackthorn’s wits and Grim’s observations, the team must discover what is amiss at Winterfalls.
Book 2 – Tower of Thorns
Having proven herself as a capable wise woman and friend to the princess, Blackthorn finds herself invited to travel to the king’s seat.
There a woman desperate for a female champion asks Blackthorn to travel further south. Blackthorn initially refuses, but she has been reunited with an old friend. This friend has a plot to bring Blackthorn’s enemy to justice. Blackthorn agrees to help the desperate woman as a step along the way to achieving revenge. Screw the agreement. The penalty for breaking the agreement is 1 year extension on her services. For revenge, Blackthorn will take the extra year.
Good thing Grim goes along because Blackthorn has no idea what she has gotten herself into. The desperate woman is more than just desperate, her friend has changed over the years, and there are little people in the woods.
Book 3 – Den of wolves
This story begins with Blackthorn focused on the changing relationship between Grim and her. When Grim leaves for a full season to build the Heartwood House, both Blackthorn and Grim struggle with their inner demons. Time alone is not the answer to Blackthorn’s troubles.
The Heartwood House brings troubles of its own between the secretive and aggressive land owner, his wild child, and the wild man who holds the knowledge to build the house.
Again, Blackthorn and Grim are caught in a mystery and must solve it or leave these three people to live broken lives.
While solving this new mystery, again, Blackthorn has a chance to seek justice on her old enemy. The opportunity is sudden and untimely. When it occurs, she must decide whether her revenge is more important than the Heartwood House mystery.
Blackthorn – She is prickly with a haunting past/present, but I liked her over the whole series.
Grim – He is strong and quietly powerful in spirit. He is my favorite by far.
The rest of the cast changes with each novel.
The story is set in ancient Ireland without beating in the setting. More importantly, it is a world full of lore and stories where magic thrives in the background but has dwindled in the everyday life. Fables and tales still carry the answers to problems.
Truthfully, I enjoyed the first two books more than the third. The final book felt abrupt.
Just as I had settled in for a 7-12 novel series, The promise to live 7 years before seeking revenge is ignored. The two issues that were overarching series issues (the romance of Blackthorn and Grim and the revenge on her enemy) swallowed the end of this book. It felt like a rush to tie up these two issues. With these two themes finished, this third book bid the reader farewell.
Despite the last book feeling like a guillotine chop, the first two books and first half of the third book are wonderful. Ms. Marillier sets up likable characters in a sustainable mystery situation. She pulls in lore and fantasy in a way that feels both unlikely and realistic. Her world is not a shiny, sparkly perfect world full of smooth skinned elves. Instead, it is a world of women with rotted out teeth, men who are judged by their strength instead of wit, where literacy is a novelty, and cruelty can be common. It’s the kind of world that deserves a wealth of stories. I was looking forward to a series that examined some of the less known Irish lore or maybe even built its own tales to guide the people. It is too bad the series has been cut short.