" 'We're friends. We work together. We understand each other. We put up with each other. We know when to stay around and when to leave each other alone. We're a team, Grim...The fact is, I can't do without you. We're friends.'
It came to me, through a blur of tears, that we'd been friends since the wretched, lice-ridden days in Mathuin's lock-up. Only, back then, I'd been to eaten up with bitterness to see it. In that place, we'd kept each other alive."
I've had this book for quite awhile. I actually got it after I read and enjoyed the Bridei Chronicles by this author. But kept putting it off.
The story starts off very fraught with the two main characters, Blackthorn and Grim, incarcerated in a prison. The conditions are vile.... they are dirty, vermin ridden, and abused. Their relationship is prickly and uneven. Grim, a hulking quiet man, is as protective as he can be in an opposite cell toward the woman he only refers to as 'Lady.' Blackthorn is bitter and hardened by her year in prison and alternately is friendly to or dismissive of Grim. She is laser focused on one thing. After one year she will get her day and in court and will seek her revenge on the person responsible for her incarceration.
But things don't go as planned. In order to save her life she enters into a strange bargain that requires her to delay her plans for revenge.
The bargain entails her to travel to a far land and take up the role as a Wise Woman. Grim, still in his self appointed task as her guardian, accompanies her. First via stealth and then, when she discovers he has been tailing her, with her begrudging acceptance.
The two of them settle in the principality of Delriada where they become embroiled in mysteries both Fey and mundane and help two very different women in need.
Despite what seems like a middling rating, I really did like this book. So much so that I am immediately starting up the second book.
So why the middling rating? The first half of the book kept fracturing my attention.
The story is told from three POVs -- Blackthorn's, Grimms and Oran's. Oran is the Prince of Dalriada. The three POVs are switched off chapter by chapter. My problem with the early half of the book is that I had absolutely no interest in Oran's chapters. None. I was riveted by Blackthorn and Grim's plight and their prickly relationship and their complicated personal history. By contrast Oran's early chapters felt like a detour in courtly banality.
Oh sure, I know enough about narrative structure to understand that Oran's story was going to be critical to Blackthorn and Grimm, but I didn't care at that point. I wanted to read about them!
The second half of the story picks up nicely when all three finally cross paths. And Oran's narrative surrounding his impending nuptials with a woman he'd only met through letters finally gets really interesting. It becomes suspenseful and, yes, a bit of a magical mystery. I guessed the mystery. Or so I thought. I was half right.
Outside of the Oran story was another mystery regarding the villagers of the princedom. A young girl is missing only no one but her best friend thinks she is really missing. Everyone else thinks she ran away. Blackthorn and Grimm manage figure out what is going on because they are outsiders and see things with an outsider's perspective. As a B-plot this was nice and gave the opportunity for some good character building and bonding for B & G.
Throughout the two main mystery plots, B & G must navigate their relationship. She still pushes him away, he still quietly and steadfastly wants to protect her. They both have pasts that we are not privy to. We only know a little bit of why they were both in prison. Blackthorn finally tells Grimm a little about herself. But his past is still a big mystery. There are hints it was something bad. But knowing the character as we do it is difficult to see him as being a really bad person. This will be interesting to see how this plays out.
In the end they have a breakthrough. Thank God. i was becoming more than a little peeved with Blackthorn and her insistence that Grimm was just a temporary companion.
It isn't a romantic relationship, although it may turn out to be one later, but for now they are companions and friends and realize that they do much better together than apart