MARILLIER, Juliet Dreamer’s Pool Pan (Blackthorn and Grim #1), 2014 420pp $29.99 pbk ISBN 9781743517024 SCIS 1684119
This is the first novel in a new series by Marillier. Like some of her previous novels it is set in Ireland in a time when Christianity had arrived but paganism was still the dominant set of beliefs. Blackthorn is a healer who has been thrown into prison for speaking out against a corrupt and vicious chieftain. The law states she cannot be imprisoned for more than a year without a trial, and she counts down the days until she can have her say. The day before her trial, she finds out that the chieftain plans to have her killed rather than giving her a trial. That evening, she is visited by a fey nobleman who offers her a bargain – he will release her from prison and save her life, but in turn she must head north and live in Winterfalls; she must help anyone who asks for it; and she cannot seek revenge on the chieftain for the next seven years. Her fellow inmate Grim escapes with her and together they travel to Winterfalls and set up residence in a cottage by the woods. Before long they are accepted members of the community and the Prince of Dalriada needs their help…
This is an enjoyable mystery novel with just a touch of fantasy. Canny readers will figure out what has happened long before the main characters do but, even so, I could not put this book down towards the end. Blackthorn is an angry and bitter character, but all her hardness and anti-social behaviour cannot hide that, at her core, she is a kind and caring soul. There are still some mysteries around Blackthorn and Grim which will no doubt be explored in later books, leaving the reader wanting more. This book would be suitable in an upper secondary or public library as there is violence and sexual references. Recommended.
reviewed by Rebecca Kemble