During her time in prison, Blackthorn didnít want to remember her old name, for it reminded her of everything she had lost. The only thing that kept her alive in that wretched prison was her thirst for vengeance. When a mysterious stranger comes and offers her freedom with conditions Blackthorn thinks to herself, this may be her only hope of getting revenge. However, these conditions command that she serves as a healer for a period of seven years and help anyone who asks for it. If she refuses to help then a year will be added on to her sentence. After being in prison so long the one thing Blackthorn despises doing more than anything else is talking with people, something that is required of her all the time as a healer. The only person she can stand being around is a giant of a man named Grim who insisted on following her when they escaped from prison. Blackthorn knows the only reason she is alive is this chance she was given by a stranger but has she just switched one prison sentence for another?
On the other side of the kingdom young Prince Oran is under constant pressure from his parents to take on his royal responsibilities and find a suitable bride and produce an heir. There had been numerous times his parents suggested an arranged marriage with a princess from a neighboring kingdom but the thought of an arranged marriage did not sit well with Oran. He was a dreamer, a poet, and longed for the type of marriage that was based on true love and affection. As time went by however, Oran realized that he could not avoid his responsibilities forever. He finally agrees to consider a marriage with a woman named Flidais, the daughter of a respected King and ally of Oranís family. After receiving a portrait of his bride-to-be Oran is completely transfixed as he sees the eyes of a woman who looks at the world as he does and after exchanging personal letters Oran is certain this is the woman he is meant to marry. As the wedding day approaches and Oran is able to spend time with his bride he becomes increasingly worried as the woman in front of him does not seem at all to be the woman from the letters he received. Oran quickly begins to wonder what the consequences will be if he marries Flidais and makes a terrible mistake.
I applaud Juliet Marillier for crafting an absolutely amazing fantasy tale with intriguing characters. Every chapter had me glued to this book as I curled up on the couch and did not stop reading until I was finished. Telling the story from the eyes of three different characters held additional intrigue as the reader is given an inside look at how each character views the other and in turn how that effects the direction of the story. There are many times when I am reading a book that I can guess what is coming next or find clues that start to give away the ending but with this book I was completely surprised with the conclusion and I loved it! Marillier wrote with such wonderful intricacy and subtleness that the ending was unexpected and did not disappoint one bit.
Quill says: An unbelievably and expertly written story that weaves magic, danger, love, and strong characters all into one fantastic story!