Tag Archives: juliet marillier

A Song of Flight

Historic Celtic fantasy novel

Content warning: spoilers for the first two books

This is the third book in the series, so if you haven’t started it yet check out my reviews of the first and second books. It hasn’t been an easy winter, and I have been a bit distracted from reviewing what with lockdowns etc, but I was so excited for this book pre-ordered this book when it came out at the beginning of August and harangued the poor staff at Dymocks Canberra on release day and they had to open the box for me! I definitely needed a little winter pick-me-up.

Image is of “A Song of Flight” by Juliet Marillier. The paperback book is resting on a timber table next to grey and black feathers and a silver belt buckle. The cover is of a woman in profile in the foreground holding a large knife, gazing across water at a stone tower in the background.

“A Song of Flight” by Juliet Marillier is the third book in the historical fantasy series “The Warrior Bards”. The book begins a short while after the events of the second book, back on Swan Island. Experienced after several successful if challenging missions, Liobhan has been given the new responsibility of helping to train new recruits. Her comrade and lover Dau spends most of his time training recruits on the mainland, and they take what few moments together they can. However, when news arrives that a prince is missing and his bodyguard Galen, Liobhan’s brother, is seriously injured, Liobhan and Dau are dispatched on separate but complementary missions to discover what happened. Meanwhile, Liobhan’s adopted brother Brocc, who is now a father, is having serious difficulties with his wife and queen Eirne in the Otherworld about the increasing presence of the mysterious and dangerous Crow Folk. When he is exiled with a precious burden, Brocc must use all his training and powers to ensure the Crow Folk are not used for evil.

This book had a different tempo than the other two books, and one of the overarching themes in this book is overcoming adversity without violence. Introduced in the earlier books, the Crow Folk make a much bigger appearance in this story and the main characters must untangle myth and culture to get to the heart of why the Crow Folk have come to their land. Whereas the previous book was Liobhan and Dau’s, this time I felt that Brocc’s story really became centre-stage. As I have often said, Marillier is a master of romance so it was really interesting to read her take on a relationship breakdown. Although Brocc has always been accepted completely by his adopted family, Marillier hints tantalisingly at who his biological family may be and what the implications of that may be. Brocc is pushed to his limits in this book and asked how far he would go for the ones he loves.

I enjoyed finally getting to meet the third child of Blackthorn and Grim, Galen, and seeing another side of their family. Blackthorn and Grim make an extended cameo in this book and it was nice to see them in a happy home, regardless of the circumstances. Although not as prominent as the previous book, Liobhan and Dau’s relationship (limited as it is by time, distance and their commitment to Swan Island) is tested in this book. Will they be able to put Swan Island missions before all else, including their love? Although many threads of this story were tied up very tidily, Marillier left enough questions unanswered and doors unclosed to make me wonder whether this truly is the last book, or whether we shall be seeing more of Brocc, Liobhan and Dau in future.

An excellent example of Marillier’s work and a satisfying ending to the trilogy without completely extinguishing the hope that perhaps there may be more to come.

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Filed under Australian Books, Book Reviews, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

A Dance with Fate

Historical Celtic fantasy novel 

Content warning: family violence, disability

This is the second novel in this series, so if you haven’t read the first novel yet I’d recommend checking out my review here first. I was so excited to see the second book come out so soon after the first and rushed to buy it.

“A Dance with Fate” by Juliet Marillier is the second book in the historical fantasy series “The Warrior Bards” that picks up shortly after the events of the first book. Former rivals Liobhan and Dau have become comrades after their challenging undercover mission, but are still eager to compete for recognition as warriors on Swan Island. However, when the evenly matched pair spar together in a display bout, an accident and a head injury causes Dau to lose his vision. Word is sent to his estranged family who demand payment, and Liobhan accompanies Dau to his home at a grim place called Oakhill. Despite his disability, Dau is no longer the frightened boy his brothers tormented and he must face his old demons if he and Liobhan are to uncover the truth of what has been happening at Oakhill. Meanwhile, Liobhan’s brother Brocc struggles to adjust to his new life in the Otherworld. The Crow Folk who so threatened the Fair Folk have begun turning up horrifically maimed and his wife and queen Eirne has grown distant. A journey to save a friend’s life brings him more than he bargained for.

My girl Pepper also wanted to get involved in being a book model

While I often find myself struggling with sequels in fantasy series, Marillier has the singular skill of making her sequels even better than the first book and this is no exception. This is a captivating and challenging tale about power and justice. Despite all his character growth in the previous book, and adjusting to his newfound confidence, Dau finds himself in a position of extreme vulnerability back in his family home where he was subjected to extreme and repeated abuse by his brothers. Marillier often writes about disability, and in this case again writes sensitively and compellingly about Dau’s grief at losing his vision, the adjustments the characters make to assist him and his gradual acceptance of his new circumstances. I also love the way that Marillier writes romance and how gentle and full of equal parts trust and passion relationships emerge.

But Tabasco is the one who matches Liobhan’s hair the best

One theme that shone through this book was the healing power of dogs. One of Dau’s childhood traumas involves his dog Snow, and the lies his brothers told about what really happened weigh heavily on Dau. However, through the dogs we meet in this book, we learn how deeply Dau cares for animals and how much they bring joy and meaning to his life, even when he is at his darkest. My own dog Pepper has been attacked several times by dogs, something that I know Juliet Marillier has also experienced, yet the generosity with which she writes about dogs in this book – especially dogs with poor training and unkind treatment – is honestly heartwarming. Where we were struck by the tragedy of what happened to Snow in the previous book, this book feels like a reconciliation for both Dau and reader.

In the previous book, I did find Brocc’s story a little less engaging, but in this book I was absolutely hooked. Marillier fleshes out the Otherworld and Brocc’s relationship with Eirne. I felt that Brocc underwent a lot of character development in this book, coming to terms with his own mixed ancestry, navigating honesty and expectations with his new wife, and trying to decide his own morals in relation to the Crow Folk. The Otherworld characters, old and new, were very interesting and I simply adored True.

This book had me in tears more than once and I cannot wait for the next installment.


Filed under Australian Books, Book Reviews, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

The Harp of Kings

Historical Celtic fantasy novel 

Content warning: family violence

After somewhat of a writing hiatus, one of my favourite authors has come back with force, and I was thrilled to find out she was releasing a new trilogy of novels. Taking advantage of Christmas sales, I picked up a copy from Harry Hartog and couldn’t wait to read it. I’ve also been inspired to make a Spotify playlist that you might like to listen to while reading this review.


My partner and I both have Irish heritage, and he received this beautiful bodhrán from his parents, and I the exquisite silver bookmark, after they visited Ireland a couple of years ago

“The Harp of Kings” by Juliet Marillier is the first book in her new “Warrior Bards” historical fantasy series. Set some 20 years after the events of “Blackthorn and Grim“, with connections to elements of the “Sevenwaters Series“, the story is about singer and musician Liobhan who is training with her brother Brocc to be an elite warrior on Swan Island. Liobhan has a rivalry with another young recruit called Dau and all three trainees are surprised when they are asked to go on an undercover mission on the mainland to recover a lost harp. Given new names, backstories and personalities, Liobhan, Brocc and Dau must not falter. With court intrigue, secluded druids and the possibility of otherworldly interference, any wrong step could put the mission, and the kingdom, into jeopardy.

It will surprise nobody that I adored this book. This is Marillier at her finest, and this book blends new characters and themes with familiar places. In particular, Marillier explores the lifelong impact of growing up as a child subjected to family violence, and in particular violence from siblings. Liobhan is a great leading character who has the moxie of Liadan in “The Son of Shadows” but exceptional strength, fighting ability and musical talent. However, Liadan is headstrong and must balance her ambitions, prejudices and integrity to make the right decision. I also loved Dau’s story arc, and how Marillier introduces him as seemingly a one-dimensional character whose courage and depth is explored in depth as he must allow himself to become vulnerable.

Although I loved this book, I have to say that of the three point of view characters, I was probably invested in Brocc’s story the least. I think this is possibly due to him being the most passive character in the book. While this does make sense given the plot, I did find myself looking forward to Liobhan and Dau’s chapters much more.

A fantastic beginning to the series, I can’t wait for the second. Knowing Marillier, there is undoubtedly a lot still in store!


Filed under Australian Books, Book Reviews, Fantasy, Historical Fiction


Audiobook retelling of Nordic fairy tale 

I am a Juliet Marillier tragic, and I was so excited to hear that she had a new audiobook coming out, and was even more thrilled when I won a copy on Audible in a contest! To win, I had to share which fairy tale I would most like to see retold from a unique perspective, and I said Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Red Shoes” because (like many of his fairy tales) I always felt the punishment was disproportionate to the crime. Anyway, I had recently joined the gym and I decided to waste no time and start listening during my next workout. I had listened for about 5 minutes while I was on the stair-climber (or something equally painful), when I laughed aloud because I realised that I had just read this story very, very recently.

Image result for alien iii william gibson audible

“Beautiful” by Juliet Marillier and narrated by Gemma Dawson is a retelling of the Nordic fairy tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” about Hulde, a princess who lives in a palace at the top of a glass mountain. Her mother, the queen, rules over Hulde and the palace servants with an iron fist. Hulde is told from a young age that her destiny is to marry the most beautiful man in the world. The only friend Hulde has is a white bear called Rune who comes to visit, and who shows her kindness and takes the time to teach her about the world. However, when he leaves, Hulde is left with more questions than answers about her future. When her wedding day arrives, her life is turned upside down and she finally has the opportunity to make her own destiny.

This book was an absolute delight. I have never been so motivated to go to the gym as I was to hear the next part of this story. There are so many wonderful parts to this book that I kind of don’t want to tell you about for fear of spoiling the joy of discovering them for yourself. Hulde is a brilliant, complex protagonist whose physical, emotional and perhaps even magical strength helps her to overcome the many challenges she is faced with. Marillier does a wonderful job showing Hulde’s journey from naive, innocent girl to fully-realised woman. In this story, problems aren’t solved by violence or trickery, but rather with patience, kindness and courage. I’m still smiling about the companions Hulde meets along the way, and the thrill of finding out the romantic direction the book took. I would also like to mention that I quite enjoyed Dawson’s narration, and felt that she captured Hulde’s innocence and strength really well while also creating distinct voices for the different characters.

I think the only thing that people may find frustrating about this story is that quite a lot of the book is about her learning things that the reader likely takes for granted and making mistakes that the reader likely feels are easily avoidable. Hulde is very young in spirit, and while this means that she has a lot of character development, there is a fair amount of time taken up by people explaining things to her. However, I do think that this is a necessary part of the story as Hulde navigates issues like power, independence, kindness and love.

I simply adored this story and if anything was going to get me to the gym, it was the prospect of listening to this.


Filed under Audiobooks, Australian Books, Book Reviews, Fantasy

Heart’s Blood

Historical fantasy retelling of classic fairy tale

Content warning: family violence, disability

It’s no secret that I adore Juliet Marillier and her beautiful and whimsical historical fantasy novels. I generally try to space them out, but I am getting towards the end of all the books she’s written (so far), so it has been a while since I have picked one up. Anyway, approaching the end of the year, I was in dire need for a comfort read, and I was very eager to give this standalone novel a go.

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“Heart’s Blood” by Juliet Marillier is a historical fantasy novel that reimagines the classic story of “Beauty and the Beast“. The story follows a young woman called Caitrin who is on the run from her abusive family home. Trained as a scribe, when she hears of a job vacancy at the mysterious fortress known as Whistling Tor, locals warn her against it and the disfigured chieftain called Anluan. However when Caitrin arrives, she finds that fear of the known is far worse than fear of the unknown and soon settles into the strange rhythm of the household. While she attempts a seemingly insurmountable task that others before her have failed, she discovers that ugliness is often much more than skin deep.

Marillier, as always, gently coaxes into life sensitive and well-considered characters who overcome hardship and find strength and comfort in one-another. Marillier’s book are and continue to be incredibly inclusive and tackle modern issues through a historical lens. Although this is not the first book of hers with a character with a disability, this book is the first book of hers I have read that really explores the issue of family violence. I thought that she handled Caitrin’s experiences, and the toll they took on her self-esteem and identity, very adeptly and drew out the issues of vulnerability and courage for both Caitrin and Anluan very well. I also really liked that Marillier again made a main character with a disability someone who is capable and desirable.

However, this wasn’t my favourite of Marillier’s books. The plot twist about the true nature of the evil at Whistling Tor I saw coming a mile away, and I felt like a large proportion of the book was spent waiting for the ending I knew was on its way. While I did fully respect that Marillier incorporated themes of family violence into her book, I felt that it could have been a little less distant relatives come take advantage and a little more close to home like unfortunately so many domestic violence stories are. I also felt a little that the way that part of the story is resolved got a bit Jane Eyre towards the end with a bit of deus ex machina in the form of a cart of people going by at just the right time.

Regardless, this is a sweet and enjoyable story and a unique retelling of a classic fairy tale. I read this book in no time at all, and look forward to the next Marillier book I tackle.

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery


Filed under Australian Books, Book Reviews, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Den Of Wolves

If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you’re probably well aware that I’m probably Juliet Marillier’s biggest fan. Her book “Den of Wolves”, the finale to the Blackthorn & Grim trilogy following “Dreamer’s Pool” and “Tower of Thorns”, was released only days ago so of course I had to get myself a copy – stat. Bumping all of the other books on my to-read list, I’ve spent the last couple of days positively glued to this book.


“Den of Wolves” by Juliet Marillier continues the story of unlikely due healer Blackthorn and big man Grim who are slowly rebuilding their lives in a place called Winterfalls. Bound by the fey Lord Conmael to help all who ask for it and to stay within the bounds of Winterfalls for seven years, Blackthorn’s desire for vengeance against the brutal Mathuin of Laois have started to simmer down. However, when she meets a strange young girl is sent away from her home in nearby Wolf Glen to stay in Winterfalls, Grim is hired to help build a mysterious house by the girl’s father and tattooed soldiers arrive in Winterfalls on a secret mission, Blackthorn’s loyalties are put to the ultimate test.

A story rich in folklore and emotion, “Den of Wolves” is a strong ending to the Blackthorn & Grim series. Marillier dances through genres and this book is part historical fiction, part fantasy, part romance and all heart. It’s a story about redemption, trust and love and the importance of truth. Marillier is a brilliant storyteller, and while I think my favourite in this series was the second book “Tower of Thorns”, it is a nevertheless great finish to the stories of two wonderful characters. One of my favourite things about Mariller’s books are her characters and I adore her strong, brave women and her gentle, capable men.

If you haven’t read Juliet Marillier’s books yet, this series would be a great place to start.

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Tower of Thorns

If you’ve been following this blog, you might have noticed that I love Juliet Marillier. Last year I reviewed her book “Dreamer’s Pool“, and while I try to space our her novels as much as I can, I finally let myself read “Tower of Thorns”, which is the sequel.

“Tower of Thorns” continues the story of Blackthorn the healer and Grim the strongman, the unlikely pair who have found themselves once again in the middle of a magical mystery. Bound by oath to help all those who ask for help, Blackthorn agrees to help a beautiful yet haunted lady by travelling with her to her lands and performing a summer solstice ritual. Increasingly frustrated by the lady’s secretive manner and hidden agenda, Blackthorn finds her loyalties tested when a person from her past arrives. She pays less and less attention to her companion Grim, who himself is forced to face demons from his past.


One of my favourite things about Marillier’s series is that she never starts on a high and peters out. Her books just build and build. “Dreamer’s Pool” was good, but “Tower of Thorns” was better. The characters are really starting to develop, the ambiance is dark and moody and you’re really starting to get invested in the story. I was really excited a when Juliet Marillier announced a couple of weeks ago that her publishers have given the third installment of the Blackthorn and Grim series “Den of Wolves” the green light.

I love this author. I love her books. I love her feminist historical fiction/fantasy blend. If you haven’t read her books yet, definitely give them a go, and this series is as good a place as any to start.

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The Sevenwaters Series

Where do I even begin? There is something about Juliet Marillier’s novels that just seem to resonate with me. Maybe it’s my Celtic roots. Maybe it’s her strong and relatable heroines. Maybe it’s her exquisite mix of historical fiction and fantasy. Maybe, despite everything that I say, I secretly love romance novels. I have no idea, but I just cannot get enough of her, and the Sevenwaters Series is absolutely no exception.

I started reading these books just before Christmas, and I have been trying my hardest to draw this series out as long as I can. I only just recently finished the sixth book in the collection, Flame of Sevenwaters, and so nearly a year after starting them it is only now that I can write about the whole series. The books commence with Daughter of the Forest, a Celtic retelling of the German fairy tale, The Six Swans. This is about Sorcha, a sister who must weave her six enchanted older brothers shirts of thorns to turn them back to humans from swans. The second (and my favourite of the six) is Son of the Shadows, which follows Sorcha’s spirited daughter Liadan who is determined to forge her own path, the Fair Folk be damned. Third comes Child of the Prophecy, which introduces Liadan’s cousin Fainne who brings a lot more trouble than anyone bargained for. The third book is much darker and much more morally grey, which means that while Fainne herself is not as likeable, the book is really interesting. The final three in the series, Heir of SevenwatersSeer of Sevenwaters and Flame of Sevenwaters are about three of Liadan’s brother Sean’s daughters and their interactions with the Fair Folk.


These books always seem to touch me somehow. For example, I recently had to say goodbye to our beautiful dog Bailey, who at the majestic age of 19 years old had been a part of our family for the past 17 years. The final book, Flame of Sevenwaters, is about Maeve, a woman with a special affinity for animals who lost her own dog in a fire and who bonds with two unusual and clever new dogs. I read this book only a couple of weeks after losing my dog, and had me sobbing my heart out.

Juliet Mariller is comfort reading to me. It is the perfect marriage of history, fantasy and romance, and every new novel of hers I read, I adore. These books are beautifully written and have intricate family dynamics, strong women, beautiful men and are rich in culture and scenery. She has such a knack for capturing nuances in characters and relationships. They are my ultimate form of escapism and I am constantly torn between devouring them and savouring them, book by book. I love these books and there is little I look forward to more than picking up a new novel of hers that I haven’t yet read.


Filed under Book Reviews, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Dreamer’s Pool

Today is the perfect day to write a review on this book. Cold, rainy and grim suits the tone of the book exactly.

“Dreamer’s Pool” is another Juliet Marillier novel (I have a problem, I know) set in the British Isles. It is the first in the Blackthorn and Grim series, and the only one released so far. While there are some similarities between this one and the others that I have read, it is at its essence quite a different story. There are a number of point of view characters, and is a curious blend between fantasy, historical fiction and mystery.


Unlikely duo Blackthorn the healer and strongman Grim set up home in a new village after they manage to escape from prison. Readily accepted into the community due to their hard work ethic and skills, they are asked by the prince to get much more involved than they would care to in order to find out the truth behind his newly arrived betrothed’s strange behaviour.

Marillier is and remains a favourite of mine because she fills a largely unoccupied niche in the fantasy genre with her convincing and independent female lead characters. “Dreamer’s Pool” is no exception and has the additional layer of a kind of medieval detective story. However, Marilleir’s use of suspense in the novel at time borders on the infuriating. While perhaps not my favourite of her books, I did enjoy the fact that her characters in this novel were more like “common folk”. I also liked the unconventional relationships she has begun to explore, particularly between Blackthorn and Grim themselves.

I’ll definitely pounce on the next one when it comes out. In the meantime, I’ll keep trying to exercise some self-restraint and try not to read the others that I still have all at once.


Filed under Book Reviews, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

The Bridei Chronicles

So after two weeks of solid blogging, I’m finally up to the books I’ve read since coming back from my Christmas trip in the UK. I’m hoping to catch up soon with what I’m reading currently, and then I’ll post as often as I finish books.

The first book I read, “The Dark Mirror” by Juliet Marillier, was a Christmas present from my friend Annie and is the first book in the historical fantasy series “The Bridei Chronicles”.

This was, first and foremost, a very thoughtful gift. I have been a fan of Juliet Marillier since I read her two novels “Wolfskin” and “Foxmask” as a teenager. In the past year, I have become immersed in the “Sevenwaters” series, and have been relishing the fact that I still have the final installment left to read.

Marillier is my guilty pleasure, and her historical fantasy romances draw me in and make the world around me melt away. There’s just something about them that tugs at my Celtic roots and it has been a while since I have read books that have made me feel so hungry for more. I’ve actually been meting them out between other novels because the temptation to race through them is so great and I want to savour each story.

“The Bridei Chronicles” are no different. Based on the historical figure, Bridei – King of the Picts (a tribal confederation of peoples in northern and eastern Scotland, according to wiki), and taking place in the 6th Century, “The Dark Mirror” is Marillier’s fictionalisation of his childhood and his rise to becoming king.


Bridei is sent away as little more than a toddler to live with the king’s druid, Broichan, at a rather mystical place called Pitnochie to commence his education. A quiet, conscientious boy, Bridei strives hard at his lessons and keeps his feelings of loneliness and abandonment to himself. When the goddess known as the Shining One wakes him up one winter’s night for him to find a gift on the doorstep left by the Good Folk (faerie people), Bridei’s lonely life changes forever and his guardian’s plans for him are put to the test.

Combining historical fact with speculation and traditional folklore, this is a story laced with wonder, pain and love. Although perhaps not my favourite of her novels, I think so far this is Marillier’s most historically accurate, and it is rich with its detail, druidic knowledge and intense relationships.

There are two other books published in the series so far, and I have already read the second, “The Blade of Fortriu”. A rather different story which deals with Bridei’s military campaigns and with intrigue and politics with other tribes, I think I actually enjoyed the second book more than the first. Perhaps because the cast has grown and so therefore has the complexity of the relationships and the number of viewpoints being shown.

I think that if you are interested in historical fantasy, romance, strong female characters who are realistic given the setting, politics and all things fae then you would likely enjoy this series.

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