Dreamer's Pool

Juliet Marillier
Dreamer's Pool Cover

Dreamer's Pool


"Spellbinding" is the only word to describe Dreamer's Pool. Reading it was like walking into a gorgeous, living fairy tale. I just loved this book, it's probably one of the best I've read all year... and I've read A LOT of books this year.

This is the first in an adult series by Juliet Marillier, called Blackthorn and Grim. Blackthorn is a woman we meet at the beginning of the novel, imprisoned for speaking out against a wicked and corrupt chieftain. Hours before she is to be executed, she is visited by the fey, who offers her a chance to escape in exchange for her promise to set aside her desire for vengeance. Reluctantly, Blackthorn agrees and makes her way north to Dalriada to start her new life. She is trailed by her fellow prisoner and escapee Grim, a hulking man of few words. Unable to turn away anyone who asks her for help, Blackthorn also recognizes Grim's potential as an ally, and the two of them strike up a tentative partnership.

Meanwhile in Dalriada, Prince Oran prepares to wed. He has never met his future bride the Lady Flidais, though he has seen her portrait and they have written extensively to each other. However, the crown prince is convinced that the sweet, compassionate and intelligent woman he has come to know through her letters is his perfect match, which is why he is dismayed when the Flidais who arrives at his castle is nothing like the Flidais he thought he knew. Had he been taken for a fool, merely blinded by youthful naiveté? Or is there something stranger, more mystical afoot? Perhaps the newly arrived wise woman and her big strong helper could be of some assistance in this mystery.

This is a tale of magic, set in a world where one imagines myths and legends can come to life, but it also feels surprisingly grounded at the same time, almost like a fairy tale infused with a bit of realism. These elements gave the world more depth and kept it from feeling too simplistic, but they were also muted enough not to be overbearing or risk completely obliterating the magical nuances. Marillier tackles the craft of world-building meticulously and flawlessly, striking the perfect tone. I'm beyond impressed.

Dreamer's Pool is told through the perspectives of Blackthorn, Grim and Oran. These three characters made this book a joy to read, and there's no hemming and hawing about it - I loved them all equally. They're very different people, and the way they're written by Marillier, you would never mistake any one of them for another. Each person's voice feels unique and extraordinarily real and powerful. The reader perceives the world and various events through a character's eyes, at the same time watching him or her develop along with the story. We're with Oran as he grows from a young, carefree man into a thoughtful and worldly leader. We're in Blackthorn's head even as she is blinded by her own personal biases and unaware of her flaws. And Grim is just Grim. He's simply an amazing and special man and there can be no other like him.

This book made me wonder why I waited so long to pick up something by Juliet Marillier. She writes so beautifully, with every word like an enchantment or spell drawing the reader deeper into the story. There's a mystery here I couldn't wait to get to the bottom of, and then as we drew closer to the conclusion I didn't want this story to end!

Alas, it did. But I'm also glad this is going to be a series because I can't wait until we can return to the world of Blackthorn and Grim. Until then, I've bought other books by Marillier because I just can't get enough of her writing. Dreamer's Pool gave me a taste, and now I'm hooked.