Fable and Fantasy…
I was very lucky recently to be given a proof copy of Dreamer’s Pool (Book One of the new Blackthorn and Grim series) by Australian historical fantasy author, Juliet Marillier.
It wasn’t a review copy, it was just a giveaway, and I was thrilled because Marillier has been an absolute favourite writer of mine since I read the first book of The Seven Waters series: Daughter of the Forest many years ago.
Daughter of the Forest was based on the fable The Six Swans and I realised at that point that one can set Marillier far apart from many other fantasy writers. She takes the fable and weaves such threads through it that it becomes a seamless part of the original legend. One cannot separate one from the other. She is quite simply brilliant at the art-form.
I followed this book with a YA novel, also based on fables. Wildwood Dancing, is based on The Twelve Dancing Princesses and has a Transylvanian darkness running through it – so clever, such fine embroidery of the legend with Marillier’s narrative. And over the years I have followed the continuing story of Sevenwaters and never had any fear that Marillier would draw me back into a forest that could be part of my world, into the dark realms of Faerie that could be outside my door.
Since then I have read everything she has written and so when I received Dreamer’s Pool, I was back into that wonderful mode of craving reading time in bed at night.
Marillier writes Dreamer’s Pool from triple points of view. It’s a technique I have always valued in writers and I have used it myself in the past, because it’s such an uncluttered way of sinking into characters’ personae. In this story, the POV’s are written continuously, one chapter after another, driving the narrative forward smoothly.
The character of Blackthorn is strong. Marillier has a reputation for writing powerful female characters who strive beyond difficult circumstance. Blackthorn begins the story as such an angry enigma and it is blatant curiosity that drives the reader on.
Grim, the faithful sidekick, is perhaps well named. One has visions of the Grim from Harry Potter legend – an enormous, dark dog filled with black thoughts. But there the similarity ends. Whilst Grim has a terrible past that he must try to reconcile and whilst his loyalty to Blackthorn is dog-like, he is most definitely not canine. He is just a huge man trying to make sense of the evil that has occurred in his life. His relationship with Blackthorn is a curious and intriguing pairing and I look forward to so much more from this couple in the future.
The third POV is that of the Prince of Dalraida. To me he is the essence of the under-regarded young noble, desperate to prove himself but tied to the customs of Celtic Ireland and the wishes of his father the king. He grows as the story develops and I have a feeling that in future Blackthorn and Grim stories, he will be the heir that one expects – explosive, strong, a true Celtic noble who has found his way forward.
I conclude this commentary by saying that Marillier didn’t disappoint. There is the faintest allusion to fable again, but this time it is overshadowed by her instinctive love of and knowledge about Celtic culture. I recommend Dreamer’s Pool to anyone who enjoys subtle fantasy that takes place in a world that could quite conceivably be one’s own.
NB: Dreamers’ Pool is available by pre-order from any online retailer of bricks and mortar store.