Den Of Wolves | Thoughts
"Hope. Hope fought hard to stay alive. Even when you thought it was beaten to nothing, burned to ashes, drowned deep, still it flickered away, waiting to be found again."
You know the things that bring you comfort when you're feeling sad? We all have them--foods, shopping (be it for shoes or books or clothes), a place out in nature, long hikes. Sometimes, when I'm feeling lost--it doesn't necessarily have to be sad, just lost--simply going into a bookstore and spending hours wandering through shelves and shelves of unexamined adventures is the only thing that makes the world feel right again.
Juliet Marillier is my comfort author. Her writing instantly transports me to a steady state of peacefulness, as though I am the one walking beneath the trees of Erin, talking with the birds, listening to the rain, or having strange meetings with Fae beings. I don't know how she's able to do it, to put that overall comforting feeling into the tone of her stories, but that is what she does for me.
I was fortunate enough to meet Juliet when she did a meet-and-great in Salem, MA last fall, and she is every bit as lovely as her writing suggests. I hadn't picked <i>Den Of Wolves</i> up yet, and after she finished the reading she offered her copy to the first hand up. We were all quite polite in the group, waiting to see if anyone would like to go first (haha), but I got over that the quickest and thus her copy came home with me, signed and everything! :) It has joined the many other Marillier volumes in my library, along with the special UK edition of my all time favorite, <i>Daughter Of The Forest</i>, which I picked up after a search of many bookshops in Ireland and was also signed during the Salem visit.
I don't know if I just particularly needed her writing as a comfort right now, or if Den Of Wolves is a stronger example, but whatever the case I adored this book. It made me feel happy even as the characters struggled at times; they evoke such strong emotions. Perhaps it is also that Cara reminds me of Sorcha, with her wildness and connection to the old forest and all its creatures. Even now a decade after I first read Daughter Of The Forest, one of my favorite book moments of all time comes in the trees' whispering to Sorcha when she finally makes it home.
"One cautious step, two, three, and it was under her hand, tough, fibrous, as old as time -- the root of an oak. Cara closed her fingers around it; rested her brow against it. Heard, sure and steady, the ancient voice within. Be safe, Daughter. You are one of ours."
I just feel like going to meditate under an old oak, miles from the noise of civilization after lines like that.
So, moving into the actual story. Am I the only one that was blown away when I discovered (halfway through reading!) that the Blackthorn and Grim series is only a trilogy!? For some reason, I was certain I'd have up to seven books given Blackthorn has entered in to a seven year agreement with the Fae...the first two books represented her first two years. Therefore, I was not prepared AT ALL to find out that my time with Blackthorn and Grim -- GRIM! <3 -- was ending with Wolves! Aside from being very sad to say goodbye to them, their story concluded (or is just beginning, depending on how you want to look at it) nicely. I love how Marillier creates a new mystery to solve with each of the Blackthorn tales. There is the surface story of new characters we are introduced to, in this case Cara and Bardan, and beneath it the deepening personal journeys of Blackthorn and Grim.
Cara is the daughter of a local lord, who likes nothing more than to be out in the deep forest, never worrying as other villagers do that the trees may lead her astray. She's one of their own, and she can always find her way amidst their steady presence. She loves her father, who insists on forcing her to act more a lady, to stop with the nonsense of acting a mute when she is in the company of others. But Cara is not mute, and when she is among friends she trusts, whom she knows accept her, just as she is--friend of the birds, speaker to trees, wild one of the forest--her chest is not too tight to speak, her throat does not close around the words she would say.
When Master Tola sends his daughter away while he completes a mysterious project on his land led by an even more mysterious and half-mad stranger, Cara completely shuts down. When her path crosses with Blackthorn, they are both a balm for what the other craves. Even as Cara wishes for nothing more than to go home, she finds Blackthorn accepts and understands her connection with the forest and her need to be free of the restrictions of "proper" activities. Blackthorn has grown accustomed to Grim's steady presence, and his absence only has her acting more waspish as she both realizes this and is annoyed with herself, as well as misses him. The mystery of the house Grim is commissioned to build grows as he sees injustices against his fellow builder and questions how far he's willing to let it go before he steps in.
"Master Tola has his storm inside. An angry storm, churning away in his vitals, hollowing him out."
There is never a question as to whose POV we're in--I could flip to any random page and know instantly whose thoughts I was reading. Each of the characters has such a unique voice, and Marillier crafts their chapters well, even giving them each their own narrative tense.
"'Nah,' I tell him. 'I'm the one who's lucky. I'd be dead if not for her. I'd be rubbish, like I was before. I'd be nothing. I was broken all to pieces and she put me back together.'"
Grim continues to be my obvious favorite, for his kindness and compassion, and his unwavering loyalty to Blackthorn. I know it is their dynamic, but so often throughout these tales I wished he would just know, and believe, what he means to Blackthorn. She doesn't make it obvious, but it is her way, and she is noticeably softening as the years stretch and she is reminded of the good in humanity.
I thought the conclusion of both Cara's story and the larger one concerning Mathuin of Laois and Conmael were quickly resolved...a little too quick. But I do like picturing the future for all of these characters past these books; Blackthorn with Grim in their cozy cottage, Cara with her father in the forest, Conmael serving justice and popping in here and there to say hello. I suppose seven books could have stretched Blackthorn's journey thin, but I still hoped for more of her and Grim.
The Blackthorn and Grim trilogy is yet another wonderful example of Marillier's skill, unique in the characters and story with writing that exudes tranquility.