Tag: Juliet Marillier


Review – Dreamer’s Pool

Posted 8 June, 2016 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Dreamer's Pool by Juliet MarillierDreamer’s Pool, Juliet Marillier

I should’ve got round to this ages ago, I know. I usually enjoy Juliet Marillier’s work, though I don’t always love it (I think Wolfskin and Foxmask didn’t work so well for me), and I read some very enthusiastic reviews about this one. There were one or two aspects that made me pause (a minor character is a victim of pretty serious abuse and rape) and a few people did note that there’s a fair amount of ‘slut-shaming’ in the story, i.e. shaming a female character for being at all interested in sex. It’s not surprising in a medieval-esque setting, as it often comes with the territory, but off-putting in a fantasy world with no reason to include it.

Still, it’s essentially a fairytale set-up: Blackthorn makes a bargain with a fairy to get out of prison, with a number of conditions placed upon it. This frames the story and sets up her relationship with Grim, her obligation to help people, and her slow road to recovery after the depredations of prison and injustice. That then combines with the story of the side characters, Oran and Flidais, who have an arranged marriage but communicated via letters. Yet, when she arrives amidst the tragedy of losing one of her maids, her faithful dog suddenly hates her and she doesn’t behave at all like the bride he expected.

I found the actual mystery aspect of that really obvious; given the mythological, Celtic-ish setting, it was a little tedious waiting for everyone else to catch up to the obvious. There was one issue which surprised me a little, involving the dog Bramble, though I was pleased by that development and how the plot worked out. Flidais and Oran are sweet and naive, and it seemed like everyone would be miserable if things didn’t work out properly. It’s difficult to discuss the plot and the sex/abuse issue without giving any spoilers, so skip the next paragraph if you haven’t read the book and might want to work things out for yourself!

There is a character who has been abused and raped, but it is essential to the story for the things it brings out in various different characters — in Oran and his wife-to-be, in Blackthorn and Grim in their determination to give the girl justice. Likewise, the issue of sex isn’t as straightforward, in my opinion, as other people think. The problem is not that a particular character is interested in sex, but that she acts out of character about it. It’s as important that she isn’t sympathetic to a victim of rape as that she’s proactive about having sex with Oran. It all comes together into a picture of a woman who just isn’t the woman Oran thought he knew from the letters, and that is the important thing. Honestly, the most important clue about her identity is not the sexual aspects, but in her lack of interest in reading and poetry, and her indifference to her formerly beloved dog.

There’s a lot of time spent on the characters of Oran and Flidais, but Blackthorn and Grim are really the core of the story: Blackthorn’s trauma, her need for justice, her geas to help people in exchange for freedom. I expect that the second book is going to spend more time with Blackthorn and Grim, and dealing with their partnership and friendship, and I’m all for it. And I really enjoy that Blackthorn’s relationship with Grim is emotionally important to both of them, gives them both stability, and has nothing to do with sex or romance. I hope it continues that way.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Cybele's Secret

Posted 27 March, 2015 by in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Cybele's Secret by Juliet MarillierCybele’s Secret, Juliet Marillier
Review from 27th January, 2011

To my surprise, I actually enjoyed Cybele’s Secret more than Wildwood Dancing. The main problem I had with Wildwood Dancing was the predictability, and maybe the tortuous way everything went wrong, and so the pacing… For the most part, Cybele’s Secret was better, in that respect. I didn’t figure out the whole plot in the first fifty pages as I did with Wildwood Dancing, so it didn’t drag so much for me — and when it got to the last part, I was hooked, toes curling with excitement, grinning like an idiot: the lot.

My main criticism of Cybele’s Secret is how very, very similar Paula’s tone was to Jena’s. The two sisters are alike, but… Not so alike, I’d thought. I might have been reading the same narrator, though, or so it seemed to me… And the separation of Paula and her father, the way she got on the ship… Once she was on the ship, she acted in character, but there was nothing level-headed about going to confront a man she believed to be violent, unscrupulous and cruel. I didn’t believe that as something she would do. Which is unfortunate, because part of the plot hinged on that.

I predicted who would be following them, too, and even how she would end, so it still didn’t keep me on my toes — but the feeling of utter familiarity wasn’t there.

It’s hard to say, after that, what I did like so much. Duarte and Stoyan, mainly. I believed in both their characters, and in their different loves for Paula. And I believed in her affection for them. The end made me smile a lot.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Wildwood Dancing

Posted 20 March, 2015 by in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Wildwood Dancing, by Juliet MarillierWildwood Dancing, Juliet Marillier
Review from 23rd January, 2011

Wildwood Dancing is a very interesting blend of several different fairytales and folklore: the seven dancing princesses, the princess and the frog, stories of vampires and fairies. I love fairytale retellings, and it was interesting to see the way these were all put together in a reasonably historical framework, in Romania — with strong touches of realism, when the girls were going about their ordinary lives.

Unfortunately, for me, there was something all too predictable about it. I’d answered all the questions long before the narrator, Jena, even thought to ask them. I knew the identity of Gogu, and what Cezar had done, and what would happen to Costi… At some point, I’ve read a book very like this, or enough books that were like this to tie them all together and make an Ur-Wildwood Dancing in my head! That made it rather less fun for me, since I knew how it would all go and I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop, constantly.

With that in mind, I’m not sure how much I actually enjoyed reading it. Everything just seemed so familiar — and I’m absolutely positive I haven’t read it before. If you enjoy fairytale retellings, I think it’s worth a try, and I haven’t been put off Juliet Marillier entirely: I’m going to read Cybele’s Secret, at least, which is the sequel to this. I’m told the narrator is one of the sisters from this story, but not Jena. I wanted more depth in Paula, Iulia and Stela, so perhaps Cybele’s Secret will provide. If not, I’ll give one of her other books from a different series a try, and then perhaps give it up if that doesn’t work out… I really want to like what Marillier does — and in some ways, her work reminds me of Robin McKinley’s: that was a part of the familiarity I had with the writing, I think — but this was just too, too predictable for me.

Rating: 3/5

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 24 February, 2015 by in General / 10 Comments

This week’s topic from The Broke and the Bookish is a great one: top ten heroines. Let’s see…

  1. Yeine, from The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin. Seriously, seriously kickass lady who navigates politics, would prefer a fair fight, and becomes a goddess. Why not?
  2. Tenar, from The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin. That was always my favourite book of the bunch. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but Tenar is strong in a way that has nothing to do with physical strength.
  3. Mori, from Among Others by Jo Walton. Because she’s quite a lot like me, only she really can see fairies and she has a streak of pragmatism I could really use.
  4. Harriet Vane, from the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy L. Sayers. Bit of a change of pace from the first three, being a different genre. But she’s a woman in a man’s world, pursuing both writing and academia, a strong woman who knows her own mind and sticks to her principles. But at the same time, she’s not perfect: she snarls at Peter, she’s unfair, etc, etc.
  5. Phèdre nó Delaunay de Montrève, from Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. If there’s anything that can hold her back, I don’t know what it is. She’s gorgeous, she’s a spy, she manipulates politics and gets involved in all kinds of stuff on behalf of her country.
  6. Katherine Talbert, from The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner. Even if she doesn’t want to learn to fight at first.
  7. Ki, from Harpy’s Flight by Megan Lindholm. Practical, determined, fierce, and good to her animals, to her friends.
  8. Caitrin, from Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier. She doesn’t seem like she’s going to be a strong person at first, yet she learns to face her fears — without it ever seeming too easy.
  9. Mirasol, from Chalice by Robin McKinley. She’s thrown in at the deep end, with very little gratefulness or support from those around her, and she pushes through it to do whatever she has to do.
  10. Csethiro Celedin, from The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. She basically says that if anyone hurts Maia she’ll duel them and gut them. Like!

I’m gonna have to look at loads of posts on this one, because stories with good heroines are definitely of interest to me!

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 31 January, 2015 by in General / 18 Comments

Once again, a quiet week! Which is good, since that’s what I’m aiming for. I did get two new books — rewards for finishing books two and three of my Open University course!

Bought

Cover of Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier Cover of Prickle Moon by Juliet Marillier

I’ve read (and reviewedPrickle Moon already; it’s lovely. And I’d been wanting Dreamer’s Pool for a while!

Library

Cover of The Gabriel Hounds by Mary Stewart

Just one, a bit of self indulgence — I’ve read all of Mary Stewart’s romances, but this was the first one I read, and I’m looking forward to going back to it. Frothy comfort reading for the win! Though right now, I’m digging into Soulless (Gail Carriger) for that!

Oh, and the latest issue of Thor came out, too.

Comics

Thor #4

How’s everyone else doing? Broken your resolutions yet?

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Review – Prickle Moon

Posted 29 January, 2015 by in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Prickle Moon by Juliet MarillierPrickle Moon, Juliet Marillier

Prickle Moon is a collection of short stories, most of them previously published but five of them new, and I knew I’d have to pick the book up someday because of that hedgehog on the cover. I love hedgehogs; just yesterday we rescued one from our garden which seemed too small to be out, and sent her off to a carer to spend the winter. Last winter we did that with a couple of hedgehogs; one of them died, but the second lived and was even strong enough to make a break for it. He tunnelled out with some friends and is now living under someone’s decking!

So mostly I got this for the title story, Prickle Moon, because I love my hedgehogs. Like most of the stories in this collection, it’s bittersweet; woven with loss and hope, awful tasks and finding your way through them. Some of the stories are fairytale retellings — Rapunzel, Baba Yaga — and some are new stories very much styled as fairytales, with very familiar motifs. Some of the stories are oddly modern, which jars against the more traditional and more fantastical ones. Marillier’s good at putting her characters into awful situations which require compromise with their morality, and then making it work out so that it isn’t so bad after all. She’s good at grief, and especially healed grief — the kind of grief you learn to live with and live in.

The collection also includes a Sevenwaters story. I haven’t read that series, so it took me a little while to get into it and pick up everything that was going on, but the joy in the ending, the hope, is not something you need to have read Daughter of the Forest and the other books to understand. Though, right now, I’m definitely in the mood to read more of Marillier’s work.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Heart's Blood

Posted 11 December, 2014 by in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Heart's Blood by Juliet MarillierHeart’s Blood, Juliet Marillier

When I first read Heart’s Blood, I really loved it, and at least part of that was because I finally found a Juliet Marillier book I really appreciated. I’m a little sad that I don’t think I loved it as much this time as I did before: things that were obvious to me then were painfully so now, and the narrator still seems like much the same as every other Marillier narrator.

On the other hand, there’s still plenty to enjoy: the imaginative treatment of the Beauty and the Beast story, which takes some pretty familiar elements and twists them just enough that they can still surprise you. I love the main character’s calling as a scribe, and her slow rediscovery of herself and how to stand up for her world. I like that it’s firmly rooted in the real world, for all the supernatural elements, and in history: this isn’t a disconnected fairytale, but one that takes place in a world that carries on around it. I liked Anluan, too; he works very well as a Beast character, because at first he does seem so awkward, so impossible, but he blossoms as much as Caitrin (Beauty) does.

There’s a lot of great side characters, too; all of the characters that surround Anluan and Caitrin are interesting, and really, there could be whole books about what exactly each of them is, what they did, who they really are.

Despite me saying that I didn’t enjoy it as much as before, I did enjoy it a lot. It’s a satisfying story, where good triumphs but not too easily, where struggles and setbacks feel real. The attraction and desire between Anluan and Caitrin comes naturally, and doesn’t cross the line into being too much of a fairytale — it doesn’t break the in-the-real-world feeling that the history and setting give the story. I love Caitrin’s development over the course of the book, and I love the way everything comes together at the end.

Rating: 4/5

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 10 December, 2014 by in General / 4 Comments

I keep forgetting to post this lately — which is odd, since normally I love my routines. Still, I had it on my to do list for today, so fortunately, I didn’t forget!

What have you recently finished reading?
Heart’s Blood, by Juliet Marillier. Review goes up in the morning, I think; this was a reread, and I enjoyed it a lot. Though maybe not as much as I did the first time: some things were far too obvious on a reread, and I already predicted them the first time round.

What are you currently reading?
I’ve picked The Just City, by Jo Walton, back up. I stalled because I just felt like reading old familiar stuff (including Walton’s Tooth and Claw!) but I definitely want to hurry up and finish this. I’m also reading The Spirit Thief, by Rachel Aaron, which is light and fun. Comparisons to Locke Lamora and Vlad Taltos are quite unfair, given the lightness of it, though I can’t help but think of them… Non-fiction-wise, I’m also partway through Crow Country (Mark Cocker), which is kind of fascinating, not least because I didn’t know there was so much fascination to be found in the Corvid family, and also The Language Wars (Henry Hitchings), which is a little bit dry but still interesting.

What will you read next?
Probably more of the Rachel Aaron books. After that, maybe I’ll finally get round to The Girl with All the Gifts (M.R. Carey), or maybe I’ll just reread The Goblin Emperor… Or start on something else by Sarah Monette.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 19 November, 2014 by in General / 4 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?
Tooth & Claw, by Jo Walton. I had this vague impression of not being a big fan of it, but I think it must’ve caught me at a bad time originally, because actually, I love it. Ah, the benefits of rereading. I can’t help giggling every time I see a review complaining about the cannibalism, too… “Oh no, these dragons don’t act enough like humans!”

What are you currently reading?
Reread of The Hero and the Crown (Robin McKinley) — I’ve been needing familiar things. I need to finish The Just City (Jo Walton); it’s on my bedside table, but I haven’t wanted to be venturesome the last couple weeks. Not a good brain-week, this.

What will you read next?
I’ll finish up The Just City (Jo Walton) and Shadows (Robin McKinley), and then I want to get round to rereading Heart’s Blood (Juliet Marillier), before I lose the thread of my Beauty and the Beast themed reading.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 7 October, 2014 by in General / 24 Comments

This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday is “Ten Books For Readers Who Like Character Driven Novels”. I thought this one would be easy, initially, since characters are really important to me when I read, but it’s actually tougher than I thought.

  1. Pretty much anything by Guy Gavriel Kay. Even where his writing was less polished, more derivative, I fell completely in love with the characters. He’s one of the few authors who can reliably make me cry.
  2. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb. Sure, there’s a lot of plot too, but Fitz’s voice is the most important aspect of the story, and you just want to reach in and bang his head against something to force the sense in, sometimes.
  3. Sunshine, Robin McKinley. Not only is it vampires-done-right, but it’s first person narration, and everything Sunshine is as a character shapes the way the plot turns out.
  4. The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern. If you count the circus as a character almost on its own (I do), then yeah, this one definitely counts.
  5. Seaward, Susan Cooper. I need to reread this soon. I loved it so much, and despite the shortness of the book, Cooper built up a relationship between the two main characters that I genuinely loved and wanted to follow.
  6. The Nine Tailors, Dorothy L. Sayers. Actually, as far as being character-driven goes, you’re best reading the whole series chronologically, to get a feel for the way everything fits together, for the way the characters develop. I don’t even think I’d necessarily say I’d start with this one. But it’s the one that really made me understand Lord Peter.
  7. Chime, Franny BillingsleyTo say much about this would be to spoil it. A brief excerpt from my review: “Briony isn’t an easy narrator, and she isn’t reliable either, as she constantly tells us. The narrative isn’t a straightforward quest, it’s a maze, it’s full of funhouse mirrors.”
  8. Heart’s Blood, Juliet Marillier. This is the book where me and Marillier really clicked — I tried some before this one, and wasn’t impressed. But I got really involved with this, with the characters and their problems.
  9. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin. The narration is brilliant, the way it all slowly comes together, and I love what Jemisin does with her main character, and with the characters of the gods around her. Particularly when it comes to the child-god, Sieh, who has to act in accord with his nature, or he suffers.
  10. Among Others, Jo Walton. I strongly connected with this because I connected with Mori. Watching her grow up and begin to understand her world better over the course of the novel is a delight.

Wow, that actually took a lot of thought. Veeeery keen to see other people’s picks for this one!

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