A review by Nalini Haynes
Den of Wolves is the third and, presumably, the final in Marillier’s Blackthorn and Grim series although I’d love more. Give me more. [Beseeching look at Marillier.)
Anyhoo, Blackthorn and Grim are going about their business, not discussing what happened at the end of the previous novel, which amounted to a declaration of true love by Grim for Blackthorn.
Cara, a teenager with whimsical tendencies — think Luna Lovegood but obsessed with Wolf Glen the property and the nearby forest — is up a tree when a wild man wanders by. Cara’s father sends her to visit the princess (see book one) to allegedly ‘acquire some court polish’ in the hopes of marrying her off. This has nothing to do with the wild man, no, of course not.
Tribal conflict calls the royals away so Blackthorn babysits the 15-year-old.
Meanwhile Grim goes to work at Wolf Glen with the mysterious wild man, rebuilding a Heart House that is supposed to magically protect the lord of the manor.
Secrets and lies abound.
Blackthorn struggles with her need for vengeance against the tribal chief who murdered her husband and son. She also struggles with the thought of loving anyone ever again because she doesn’t want to ever again experience the depth of suffering caused by losing her family.
In the cold harsh light of day Den of Wolves follows a well-loved path through the various heroes journeys. Marillier’s characters are engaging and, for the most part, lovable. The community nature of the relational landscape imbues the story with flavor.
Blackthorn and Grim are, to me, the new Cadfael: I read nearly every one of Ellis Peters’s Cadfael novels for their mystery, their romance and my love of Cadfael himself. Marillier’s version has first-person romance, something (mostly) denied Cadfael as a Benedictine monk. More importantly, Blackthorn is a strong female character with agency and a struggle of her own; she’s no passive princess awaiting her knight in shining armor. Nor is Blackthorn a woman subsumed by domesticity.
Den of Wolves and the entire Blackthorn and Grim series are, to me, comfort food: I loved them the first time through and want to return to them over and over. Perfect for those doona days.
Rating: 4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars
Format: paperback, 448 pages
Publisher: Macmillan Australia, Penguin US