The second book in the fantasy series Blackthorn and Grim.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Running time: 15 hours 54 minutes
Narrators: Natalie Gold, Nick Sullivan, Susannah Jones

Blackthorn and Grim are former convicts. Blackthorn made a deal with a fae to get out of prison and is still bound by her promise to help everyone who asks for her help and not to go to after Mathuin for seven years. Mathuin is the cruel ruler who killed Blackthorn’s family and put her behind bars.

They both have difficult pasts and don’t want to reveal them to anyone, including each other. They’re not lovers but they can’t trust anyone else. For now, they’ve settled in Dalriada with the local prince and his new wife as their allies or perhaps even their friends. However, one day lady Geiléis rides to the prince and asks desperately for help. It seems that a monster lives near her lands, in the Tower of Thorns, behind an impenetrable wall of thorns. The monster can’t leave the tower and its howls drive everyone to depression and madness because they’re forced to relive their most depressing memories again and again. The prince asks Blackthorn’s thoughts and reluctantly she agrees to travel to lady Geiléis’ lands and try to get rid of the monster. Grim goes with her, even though he has lots of reservations about the whole thing.

Also, a childhood friend of Blackthorn’s appears. She thought Flannan was dead, too, but it turns out that he’s a traveling scholar and had been away when Blackthorn’s family died. She’s more than happy to see him but he has a new plan to bring down Mathuin. She wants badly to do that, but it would break her word to the fae. Flannan is going to a monastery near lady Geiléis’ lands and so they travel together. The more Blackthorn hears about his plans to go against Mathuin, the more she wants to help. Soon, she intends to follow Flannan south and help him bring down Mathuin.

This was a wonderful book, written in a very lush and evocative manner. It draws on many fairy tales, as can be seen from lady Geiléis’ chapters where she tells us the tale of young lady Lily and the young man she met in a mysterious tower. The fae of this world are very much from the fairy tales; mysterious, sometimes cruel, and they have their own rules.

This was an excellent continuation to the series. This time we find out more about Grim’s tortured past. He’s fixated on Blackthorn as the person who can keep him grounded and the only person he can truly trust. He’s taciturn and other people consider him stupid and slow. Blackthorn herself is torn between wanting to keep her word to the fae and wanting to see justice done on Mathuin. She’s a determined and passionate woman who has been deeply hurt and is now suspicious of everyone, except Grim. When she realizes that she must keep her plan of leaving with Flannan secret from Grim, she feels very guilty and tries to reason to herself that Grim will be better off without her. This puts a lot of strain on Grim’s and Blackthorn’s friendship.

The book has three POV characters: lady Geiléis, Blackthorn, and Grim. The audio book has a different reader for each and that worked very well.