Can Juliet Marillier weave a wonderful story or what? Having loved the first book in this series, I couldn’t wait to read Tower of Thorns and find out more about two characters who captured my heart and imagination, the irascible but wise and flawed Blackthorn and her dedicated companion, the huge man of few words, Grim.
In this book, Blackthorn, reluctant healer with vengeance on her mind, and Grim, are asked to help a distraught noblewoman, Lady Geiléis, whose land is cursed by a wailing monster trapped in a thorn-wrapped tower and whose misery has caused a blight to fall across her lands and test the very health and sanity of her folk.
Bound by a promise to one of the fey, Blackthorn has little choice but to help this strange woman, a woman who for all she claims to need assistance in ridding her people of this curse does not seem overly keen to help. On the contrary, she appears to want to thwart Blackthorn’s efforts to understand who the monster is and why he is so desolate and why this affects the land. Clearly, there is some larger secret to which Blackthorn is not privy but which both she and Grim know they must uncover before the deadline of Midsummer’s Eve, and the possible breaking of the curse, is reached.
As Blackthorn tries to learn what she can from various reticent residents – both within the castle and without – the very handy and reliable Grim reluctantly agrees to help nearby monks restore their decaying buildings. But Grim finds the task almost too much for him and not because the shrieking monster tries his reason. No. Like Blackthorn, Grim carries secrets from his past, secrets that become an ever-growing burden and which threaten to undo him.
In the meantime, as Midsummer’s Eve approaches, Blackthorn tries desperately to learn what she can about the history of this place and its people, but the more she discovers, the more its apparent there’s something being withheld, something that threatens not only those living in thrall of the tower, but Blackthorn and Grim as well.
Once again, Marillier transports readers back to Ancient Ireland and its wild land where faerie folk live side by side with ordinary humans (whether they acknowledge them or not) and the very grass and hills thrum with magic. Unfolding like a dark fairytale, one that captures you by the throat and won’t release you, the sense of foreboding increases with every page as you try to second guess what is happening and who or what is working with and against Blackthorn and Grim and what their intentions are. The reader is also given more insights into Blackthorn and Grim’s tragic pasts, the experiences they endured and which have shaped them into the strong-willed, stubborn yet endearingly vulnerable pair they are now.
Spellbinding writing that elicits a dreamy but uncanny mood and, as all Marillier’s books are, is laced with deeper meaning.