Good books are like good food – not only do you need the right ingredients, but you also need some technique and flair. Dreamer’s Pool has magic, romance, and mystery, as well as some great narratives and foreshadowing (albeit sometimes a little too much of the latter). It seems like I’ve been reading a lot of books about evil woods these days (with Uprooted and Messenger), but I really enjoyed the fairy tale/folklore elements in this one.
In exchange for helping her escape prison and impending execution, Blackthorn promised the fey that she will use her healing skills for good, and not for revenge against an enemy from the past. For seven years, she is to help anyone who asks for help – and if she succeeds, she will be a free woman after those seven years. Joined by fellow ex-prisoner Grim, Blackthorn travels north out of chieftain Mathuan’s rule and into the kingdom of Dalriada, where she runs into several people who desperately needs her help, one of whom is the prince of Dalriada.
First of all, I have Maraia to thank for her recommendation of Juliet Marillier’s works – one of the many benefits of having book friends with the same reading tastes is that I’m more likely to read books that I’ll like. Dreamer’s Pool actually gave me a book hangover and I was craving more fantasy books after this one!
CHARACTERS: Blackthorn, Grim, and Prince Oran are the three main characters (and the three main narratives) in Dreamer’s Pool. Their voices and personalities are distinctly different, which makes it easy to fall into their narratives and understand their behaviors. Blackthorn and Grim, in particular, have undisclosed paths that get revealed bit by bit, although we are still not privy to all the details by the end of this book. (BUT THERE’S A SEQUEL!) I like Blackthorn because of her thorniness; she’s a difficult person to deal with, which is totally against my image of most healers and wise women being kind and caring. On top of that, she’s a feminist, and that really drove some of the critical scenes and decisions in the storyline. Grim is the best companion ever, and Oran is… in love. Sigh.
PLOT: After reading the synopsis, I wasn’t too sure where the story was going to start. At the beginning of the gruesome seven years? At the end? In the middle? So I was a little surprised when it started before the seven years. (Does that mean that this series is going to have A LOT of books? Yay!) The blurb doesn’t really give too much away, so I was pleasantly surprised by the structure of the book. About one-third of the book focuses on romance, mainly because of Oran’s situation. (And again, it IS adult fiction, so…) Everything was swell, but I felt like there might have been a little too much foreshadowing. That, or the folklore involved is one that’s too familiar to me. I spent a good chunk of the book being impatient and ready for the big reveal, or anticipating some sort of plot twist. One thing I appreciated is that there are multiple plotlines going on, so I was always entertained by at least one plot.
BOOK HANGOVER SCALE: Total book hangover! I don’t get good book hangovers that often (I mostly get the ones where I go WTF afterwards) and there’s something about this book that just made me want to continue to be immersed in the world of Blackthorn & Grim. Even though there are still mysteries remaining, I was satisfied with the short-term storyline, and looked forward to the duo’s next adventures.
Dreamer’s Pool has the right mix of magic, romance, and brawn to capture my attention, and it’s a solid fantasy read. I’m definitely looking forward to reading Tower of Thorns, the next book in the series, as well as more of Marillier’s works!