Tag Archives: juliet marillier

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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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