Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marillier

A review by Nalini Haynes

Dreamer’s Pool is the first in the Blackthorn and Grim novels; Tower of Thorns is the second. In the first novel, Blackthorn and Grim are held in a medieval Guantanamo Bay–type prison where they suffer and expect to die. A fae man with a mysterious interest in Blackthorn frees her but she must abide by his contract for 7 years in return, living and serving others in a particular country. Grim follows Blackthorn and cares for her after she helped him stay sane in the prison. The pair solve a mystery and facilitate a royal romance.

In the second novel, Blackthorn is tempted to break her contract again. She uses the mystery of the Tower of Thorns as justification to travel to the limits of her contract. Grim refuses to be parted from Blackthorn, insisting on helping her even though it causes him anguish. The woman who sought their help obstructs their investigation to further her own ends.

The Tower of Thorns is, from the first mention, obviously a subversion of Rapunzel, but the monster is a man. The end of the tale is tricksy and twisty. Gender stereotypes are subverted, even in the central characters’ personalities.

When Grim forces himself to return to the monastery, reliving his past, part of his backstory is revealed. However, the key is the steps towards healing due to the kindness of strangers that Grim experiences. I cried; it’s beautiful.

The first novel felt resoundingly familiar in a good way: not that I’d read it before but it felt like something else I knew and loved. It bugged me like a name I couldn’t recall. Tower of Thorns cleared up the mystery when Grim faced his demons to help the monastery: Blackthorn and Grim is like a magical version of Cadfael that passes the Bechdel Test but with a wise woman and fae focus instead of monastic orders. I adored Cadfael and, likewise, I adore Blackthorn and Grim.

If you love fairy tale retellings and subversions, Tower of Thorns is a must-read. I finished the novel a few weeks ago but I’ve struggled to write this review because I want to do the novel justice without spoilers. Read Tower of Thorns. I love it. Also, gorgeous cover to go with previous novel’s gorgeous cover.

ISBN: 9781743535448
Format: Trade Paperback, 400 pages
Pub date: 29/09/2015
Category: Fiction & related items / Fantasy romance
Imprint: Macmillan Australia
Price: $29.99

Tower of Thorns