When we think about the fantasy genre, normally, we visualize epic battles in dazzling realms. Fantasy, sometimes underestimated, serves as a medium to reinterpret reality and its subjects. The fantasy literature can show us aspects of real world that are hard to face.
Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marillier explores fantasy with subtlety. Although it is the second book of the trilogy Blackthorn & Grim, this novel can be read separately. (Nevertheless, we have a better understanding of diegetic, if we read Dreamer’s Pool in the first place.)
Marked with beautiful landscapes and celtic traditions, the story has a tripartite structure, since each chapter corresponds to the narration of the three main characters: Blackthorn, Grim and Lady Geiléis. Through a descriptive and lyrical writing, we accompany the life of the healer Blackthorn. She saw her life reduced to nothing, as well as everything she loved most was taken away. After having spent a year prisoner of Mathuin, chief of the Laois clan, an unscrupulous man, Blackthorn seems to depart from revenge and starts to acknowledge that her new life is pleasing. Grim, faithful companion since the captivity of both, a gigantic and extremely docile man, nurtures an admiration and respect for her, which Blackthorn does not find in herself. The past haunted them and, Blackthorn and Grim, live together serenely in Dalriada.
However, peace is disturbed by the arrival of Geiléis, a maiden, whose secret keeps her alive, asking the wise woman assistance to solve a mystery that torments the region of Bann. Her lands are tormented by the lament of a creature trapped in a tower covered with thorns. Blackthorn is her only hope, but if she discovers the truth, the ultimate salvation is put at risk. Since the beginning we suspect that this curse will be harmful to Blackthorn. As soon as an old friend arrives she’s re-evaluate her thirst for vengeance, that she is prevented from fulfilling, according to the orders of an enchanted being. She must stay in Winterfalls and not refuse the requests of help of the populations. Doing justice to her name, Blackthorn is a force of nature, strong and brave.
Blackthorn and Grim, as characters, are shattered. Although, their bond goes beyond pain, because despite they are broken, they sincerely care about each other, without any trace of romantic feelings. This is proved throughout the narrative; nonetheless there are two moments where it is very explicit: the greatest act of affection, whatever it may be, is altruism. Always perceptive and attentive, Blackthorn mirrors feminine resilience in a complex palette of emotions.
Like Jane Eyre, the story focuses on her strength and deepness, instead of her physical beauty. Blackthorn is a survivor and a warrior, willing to fight for integrity, even if it threatens her life. The action emphases Blackthorn, once she is the one who can break the curse, but as readers Grim touched us intensely. We can see the differences between who he truly is and how he is supposed and perceived. His bloody memories inhabit in his mind and heart. The background of Grim is shared and we understand his impetus to defend Blackthorn. His vulnerability contrasts with his robustness, making him a captivating character.
In my perspective, what is most compelling about this book is the examination of the virtuous and malicious sides of mankind. As you read Tower of Thorns you will find retellings of some fairy tales and reminiscences of Loreena McKennitt’s songs. In Beauty and the Beast, a young prince is transform into a monster for being shallow and here a young man is transfigured in a monster to find out the power of love.
If your soul craves for magical realism, folklore, nature settings and vivid storytelling, this is the accurate book for you.
Tower of Thorns
By Juliet Marillier
415 pages. 2015
About Raquel Dionísio Abrantes
Raquel Dionísio Abrantes has a Bachelor's Degree in Cinema from Universidade da Beira Interior. She participated as a speaker with her article Image by Image - The Construction of Horrible Beauty in the Illustrated Event, which was also published in Livro de Atas. Her poem Window will be published in Better Than Starbucks magazine next month. She is currently working towards her Master's Degree in Film Studies.