Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marillier

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Blackthorn & Grim, bk 2. Macmillan, 2015. ISBN 9781743535448
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. Fantasy. Fairy tale retelling. The second in the series following the Aurealis Award winning Dreamer's Pool, is another enthralling episode in the lives of Blackthorn and Grim. Lady Geileis, a noblewoman, has asked for the Prince of Dalriada's help to expel a howling creature from an abandoned tower on her land. The tower is surrounded by impenetrable thorns and the sound of the howls of the creature have cast a blight over the whole area, and threaten the sanity of its inhabitants. The Prince asks Blackthorn and Grim to investigate and as they seek answers it becomes apparent that strange things are going on and that Lady Geileis may know more than she is telling them.
This is a beautifully written story. The prose flows along, with Marillier creating a world that is very easy to visualise. The manor house, the abandoned tower, the abbey and all their attendants, are brought to life in such a vivid way that they remain with the reader long after the book is finished. The harsh Blackthorn is at her best, as a healer and as a problem solver as she seeks the truth behind the howling creature in the tower. The background story to Grim gradually unfolds in a fascinating way, and his actions had me in tears more than once, as he proves just how heroic he is.
Marillier builds up the tension in the story as the puzzle behind the howling creature is gradually uncovered. The story feels familiar, as fairy tale retellings do, but there is much to think about and to ponder, as the tragic tale of love unfolds and danger faces both Blackthorn and Grim.
Tower of thorns could easily be read as a standalone as Marillier gives the reader enough background to understand the characters, but readers would then want to go back to Dreamer's Pool, as the characters are so fascinating. Juliet Marillier is one of my favourite authors and I look forward to reading more in the Blackthorn & Grim series.
Pat Pledger