Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier

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Blackthorn & Grim bk 1, Macmillan, 2014. ISBN 9781743517024
(Age: 15+) Recommended. Winner 2014 Aurealis Award Best Fantasy novel. Blackthorn and Grim are two convicts who have been locked up in a medieval dungeon. In exchange for help in escaping the prison, she has to assist anyone who asks her for her help for seven years. Living as a wise woman she settles on the fringe of a forest near Dreamer's Pool with Grim, a silent huge man, who has followed her from prison. Oran, the crown prince of Dalriada needs help when his future bride proves to be nothing like the woman that has been portrayed in her letters. He ask Blackthorn for help in working out the mystery that clings to Lady Flidais.
Marillier's high fantasy books are always engaging and interesting. Her two main characters are a departures for her as she often has young protagonists as the main people in her novels. Blackthorn and Grim are older and Blackthorn in particular, is bitter and disillusioned. The naivety of Oran and the youthfulness of Lady Flidais make a perfect foil to show off the dark experiences of Blackthorn and Grim. The introduction of the mystery surrounding Oran and Lady Flidais is also interesting and provides a great background to the way the reader gradually learns about Blackthorn's background and skills and the clever ways that she utilises her intelligence and ingenuity.
Set in medieval Ireland where magic abounds, the setting is atmospheric and the descriptions of the Prince's life in comparison to that of Blackthorn and Grim is engrossing.
Readers who enjoy high fantasy will love this books and those who enjoy a mystery will also find that it is very engaging. I look forward to the next in the series by one of my favourite authors.
Pat Pledger