I love everything about this book! At sub 450 pages, it’s a bit small for a big fat fantasy novel, but unlike most big fat fantasy, this book tells a contained story. Yes, that means there is no waiting to resolve the main plot! All the characters are written very well. I love Blackthorn and Grim very much. They are both damaged in very serious ways, but they make an excellent team. They’re very similar to detective partners in a police procedural, only she’s an introverted wise woman and he’s people-smart muscle and they live in an ancient Ireland infused with a little magic. The third point of view character, Prince Oran, is a likable, intelligent man who you genuinely hope finds a way out of a mess he’s in.
Marillier does a smart thing in order to build tension and a sense of unease in the story: there’s a character here who seems like she should be a point of view character, only she isn’t. As the story builds, you begin to guess why that is. By the time it’s clear that your suspicion is right, you’re totally invested in the story. It’s a great technique and a great story, too. Recommended reading for fantasy fans, folks who like character driven stories, and anyone who’d like a one-novel story where a sequel is totally optional.