This book is incredibly special to me, not just because of what it is or who it’s by, but for how I came to own it.
If you’ve been following this blog at all, you might have noticed that I have a bit of an obsession with Juliet Marillier. This obsession has been long in the making, and I first read some of her books when I was a teenager in desperate need for sexy feminist fantasy.
One of her latest series that I’ve read (and have been blogging about) are the Bridei Chronicles. I read the first book, and the second book, but because I am completely anal when it comes to my books, I hadn’t yet found a copy of the third book that matched the first two that I had in my collection. That is, until, my thrice-annual religious holiday rolled around: The Canberra Lifeline Bookfair.
For those playing at home, the Lifeline Bookfair is a huge fair selling secondhand books that have been donated in order to raise money for Australia’s biggest suicide prevention hotline. There is nothing not to like about this. The bookfair takes place in an absolutely ENORMOUS convention centre and pretty much every time I go (I always go) I nearly die with sheer happiness and excitement at all the books.
Anyway, I digress.
Last year I went to the September Lifeline Bookfair and I finally found a copy of the third book in the Bridei Chronicles: “The Well of Shades”. Unfortunately, this copy was wrapped in plastic as part of a set. I already had books one and two, I just wanted book number three. I asked one of the volunteers whether it would be possible to just buy book three, but she said no. I was dismayed. Another volunteer came over to ask if she could help, but I had to tell her what the previous one had said. She said she’d keep an eye out in case another copy turned up.
A little while passed, and there was an announcement over the PA. I don’t have great hearing, so it took a few seconds for me to process that the person they were after was someone who had been looking for “The Well of Shades” by Juliet Marillier in the sci-fi/fantasy section; i.e. me. I raced over to the guy with the microphone, and he pointed me towards that second volunteer (whose name was Petra). She said that she had bought the entire set herself, just so she could give me the third book. I was completely dumbstruck by her kindness. I clumsily tried to offer her money, but she politely refused and said that she’d give the first two books a crack. After I’d paid for my books, I snuck around to the front of the bookfair and left a note with reception thanking Petra for her generosity. I hope she got it, because it meant so much to me that she’d been so kind. She was definitely my Lifeline Bookfair Angel!
So, to the book! “Well of Shades” is the final novel in the Bridei Chronicles by Juliet Marillier. It is completely engrossing and focuses even more on Faolan, the troubled but trusted adviser of Bridei, king of the Fortriu. After having his heart awoken then promptly broken in the previous book, Faolan returns home to the Gaels to face his past and finds that things are not even remotely as he had expected them to be. Meanwhile, Bridei’s foster father Broichan leaves White Hill to go seek spiritual guidance after being faced with a painful revelation. Without his two closest companions, Bridei must rely on his own judgment to find out who is friend and who is foe in his court.
This series just gets better with each book. The story is heart-wrenching and the characters and relationships are beautifully rendered. Marillier spends a lot of time explaining Pictish religion, politics and culture and the result is very immersive. This is historical fiction with a dash of fantasy and romance, and I just adore it.
I am trying (for your sake) to space out my Juliet Marillier reads, so I promise that this will be the last for a little while. If you haven’t read any of her books, while perhaps not my favourite of her series, this series is still a fabulous read and as good as any to begin your inevitable Marillier love affair with.