After a lifetime of disappointment—from Jurassic Park 2 to the second season of Heroes—I should be prepared for sequels that don’t live up to the original. But instead I choose to inflate my hopes impossibly high and have all my dreams crushed under the brutal boot of reality later on. Example: The new Star Wars is going to be amazing and finally live up to the legacy of the original and bring the magic of the Millennium Falcon to the next generation.
Which brings me to Tower of Thorns, the second book in Juliet Marillier’s Blackthorn & Grim series. I didn’t have Star-Wars-level expectations for it; I was just hoping it would mimic the first book, Dreamer’s Pool, and give me a well-stuck-together medieval fantasy featuring myths and magic and women doing cool stuff (read my review here). Although Tower of Thorns had some of the same basic ingredients—and some really lovely retold fairytales—it was ultimately weighed down by clunky pacing and predictable plotting. (more…)
Those who have read Marillier before know the drill: She produces exceptionally readable and endearing fantasy set in the medieval and ancient British Isles, revolving around women, myths, and magic. I adored Daughter of the Forest for its loving recreation of my absolute favorite fairy tale as a kid (the Six Swans). The other Sevenwaters books went by in a blur of kings and curses because I was on vacation and had to get through the entire series before my Mom left with her duffle bag of paperbacks.
Dreamer’s Pool is still about women, magic, and ancient Ireland. So if you liked Sevenwaters, there’s no need to fear that Marillier is now writing about werewolf romances in Prague or artificially intelligent zucchini or something. But in some key ways Dreamer’s Pool is a departure from her previous works, focusing on the lowest rungs of society rather than the ruling family and looking at much wider and more real social ills. Not that help-my-brothers-are-swans isn’t a compelling problem, it’s just not, you know, something that haunts my nightmares. (more…)