It seems I am a little late to the party on this introduction to the Blackthorn and Grim series… and I’m even further behind when you consider that this is my first book by Juliet Marillier. For the most part, I enjoyed it. I think that has a lot to do with the three empathetic characters who lead the story.
Let’s start with Blackthorn. As the book begins, she has been in prison for a year –and not just the kind of prison where you miss good food and freedom. This is a pit, where she is abused and broken in every way. She lives only for the possibility of vengeance, but it looks like that, too, will be taken from her. Just before she is to be killed, a stranger –an elf– shows up and offers her a choice. He will get her out if she moves north, leaving her vengeance behind. For the next seven years she must return to her calling as a healer, turning down no one who needs help. Begrudgingly, she accepts.
Grim is the gentle giant who Blackthorn somewhat befriended in prison. We know very little about him, save for one thing: his utter devotion to his Lady, Blackthorn. When she leaves, he goes with her, determined to protect her and help her. But it’s just as much for himself, because she is the only thing that gives him any peace or comfort. Theirs is not a romantic relationship. Especially at the beginning, it’s barely a friendship, but these two survive together and that counts for something.
Our third main character is Oran, prince of the land where Blackthorn must move to. At first, his story seems unrelated to Blackthorn and Grim, but they all eventually come together. The book alternates POVs among the three of them, which didn’t bother me, but I mention it in case jumping POVs aren’t your thing.
Anyway, Oran is about to get married but there is something very wrong with his betrothed. It feels like Blackthorn was put in his life to be the one who figures out what has happened. As a reader, I felt like answer was a little too obvious, at least in the general sense. It didn’t take much to figure out when the change happened or what caused it. There were a couple of particulars that gave it a little twist, but I would have liked a puzzle where I didn’t feel like I was waiting for the other characters to catch up.
On the plus side, I felt Marillier crafted a solid and engaging world. I understood the basic politics and positions of the time. And as I said, I liked the characters. Oran may have been a little too good to be true at times. But Blackthorn was just the right combination of prickly, principled, tragic and heroic. I love how she never sugarcoats anything. That she is so genuine. That she endures and survives. And deep down, I believe she will have that vengeance she is due.
Then there is Grim. I like the mystery there. I feel like we’re going to be shocked when we learn his backstory, because of how likeable he is here. My only niggle is that I don’t really understand why he is so fixated on Blackthorn. Maybe she was just a lifeline when he needed one. But I would have liked a firmer basis for his unwavering devotion.
This story has a definite ending, but there is still so much we don’t know. Especially when it comes to why Blackthorn was freed in the first place. I will surely read the next book, looking for some answers.
Click to purchase: Amazon
by Juliet Marillier
Release Date: November 4, 2014