I like the changing points of view. The female heroine, Blackthorn, is bitchy in a mature and stark way. Grim is a likeable fellow, who is not as dim-witted as he appears. I am picturing a talkative, more intelligent version of Hodor. The fey are firmly in Tolkien territory in appearance and feel.
Slightly spoilerish review…
Blackthorn, Grim and Prince Oran tell their stories in alternating chapters. All three have distinct voices. Oran is a bit of a fool at first, but I liked him a lot, nonetheless.
I find it refreshing, that the male and female main characters do not have a romantic relationship and that there isn’t even a whiff of it. They are aquaintances and slowly become friends. And that’s it. Maybe their relationship will evolve and change to something more in the next books. But it is just fine the way it is right now.
About a third into the story, Oran gets to tell every second chapter for a while and we have a deeper look into his changing relationship with Flidais. I confess to some very light skimming. I didn’t dislike his story, but wanted it to go a bit faster…
Oran is a bit of a tosser, but around the middle of the book he finally starts to grow a pair. Blackthorn and Grim in the meantime get a little mystery and sleuthing going. They make a scary team. We finally get some back story on Blackthorn. And some John Grisham set in the Middle Ages.
A lot of terrible things happen in this book, but it’s so well told and well written, it’s a joy to read this story. Other reviewers found it boring, but I generally (sorry, Oran!) liked the pacing and the reminiscent and somewhat dreamlike story telling.
I am a little disappointed that Blackthorn reacts the way she does towards the end, but her behaviour fits her traumatic past and is needed to bring the plot forward. It did feel a bit forced though, the author did not really sell me a believable idea.
And the coin did drop very late for me, when it was obvious even for the most slow-witted reader (= me!). Very big Aha-moment!
You know those times when you come out of a tunnel or a cave or a dark place, and suddenly there’s daylight and a view like you’ve never seen in your life before? This was like that. Sent my head into a real spin.
You don’t say! Marillier got me there!
Four stars, due to some microscopic misgivings. I read and reviewed this in 2015, the second book has been lurking on my TBR pile ever since: