Dreamer's Pool (Blackthorn & Grim #1) by Juliet Marillier
Published Year: 2014
"In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she'll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help.
Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais. He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love. But Oran discovers letters can lie. For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.
With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma. Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help. To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic."
Dreamer's Pool has a rotating point of view between Blackthorn, Grim and Prince Oran, and extremely loosely (I even hesitate to claim this) follows the Goose Girl fairy tale. I found the points of view interesting because Blackthorn and Grim don't even meet Prince Oran for most of book. I was able to form opinions and/or attachments to characters independent of how they interacted with each other. This was unusual but I enjoyed it. I wasn't prejudiced by seeing them react to the same situation and identifying with one over the other as I usually am. I tend to side with the character that reacts similarly to the way I would, but when there's only one character in the situation, I'm forced to see it their way.
It did take awhile for me to get into it though. I felt like a good portion of the beginning was just setting the stage, and found myself thinking "get on with it already!". I was definitely able to see significant character growth through this portion for both Blackthorn and Grim, but there wasn't a lot of action. JM's writing style was part of the reason for this and it enabled her to really develop the relationship between Blackthorn and Grim. This relationship was probably why I enjoyed the book so much. It was extremely complex and changed over the course of the book as the two character's developed. It was also really great to see them start trusting each other and working together, and I just really enjoyed the two of them together (though neither of them would have been strong enough to narrate the book alone).
The plot was, well, like I said before, interesting but slow. Once I got to the end, where the significance of the title came into play and all three narrators starting working together, I really enjoyed the book. But the first portion, just dragged, and then the ending felt a little rushed. There certainly wasn't as much deliberation on events as there had been in the beginning.
I also had some issues with the conclusion of the main conflict in the story. I feel that while there really wasn't an alternative or something I desperately wished had happened instead, I still wasn't happy with the resolution. I was very dissatisfied and felt uncomfortable with the punishment enacted. The antagonist was accidentally forced into the role of the villain, yet the punishment was enforced as if every action was intentional. While wrong is wrong, I think there is a great deal to be said about intention.
I enjoyed this book and will most likely pick up the sequel when it's released later this year, if just to see more of Blackthorn and Grim.
3 out of 5 stars.