cover image Tower of Thorns

Tower of Thorns

Juliet Marillier. Roc, $26.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-451-46701-0

Often poignant and always engrossing, Marillier’s second Blackthorn and Grim Celtic fantasy (after Dreamer’s Pool) takes its wounded central figures on a perilous quest across a fantastical version of Europe. Their trials simultaneously demand physical strength, mental acuity, and emotional courage. Blackthorn is a wise woman traumatized by the arson murders of her husband and baby son. She’s bent on taking revenge on their killer, evil King Mathuin of Laois, but a mysterious fey has sentenced her to remain in Dalriada and do nothing but good for seven years. Her ever-faithful companion, Grim, badly scarred by his failed attempt to save his religious community from marauding Norsemen, accompanies her on their attempt to vanquish an eerie monster that’s disrupting Lady Geileis’s lands and folk by emitting agonized howls and screams from a tower encircled by vicious thorns. The characters fight on, even though they’re outnumbered, but are tormented by the thought of losing hope. Interspersing first-person passages told by Blackthorn and Grim with episodes of Geileis’s heartbreaking tale of cursed young lovers, Marillier enthrallingly spins out her graceful and mesmerizing tribute to heroes anywhere and anywhen. This immersive fantasy tale can be savored even by those unaware that Marillier’s stated goal for the series is to explore PTSD and strategies for coping with its effects, which she admirably achieves. Agent: Russell Galen, Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary. (Nov.)