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Caitrin is on the run from a bad situation at home. With only the clothes on her back, a few coins, and her box of scribing tools, she just wants to get away. Her money runs out late one evening in the middle of nowhere. She finds her way to a village called Whistling Tor. She’s eventually allowed through the fortifications and the innkeeper and his wife fill her head with terrible tales of a mysterious host that was unleashed on the territory about 100 years ago. It still leads travelers and locals alike to their deaths. The next morning, Caitrin, desperate, overhears a man from the keep at the top of the hill asking the innkeeper to send him anyone who can act as a scribe to work for the summer. Caitrin jumps at the chance. The innkeeper warns her that it isn’t safe, but anything would have to be better than what she’s left behind. She makes her way to the keep and meets a strange group of people. Strangest of all is the chieftain, Anluan, a man who’s had an illness that’s left him lame on one side and with a mercurial temper. Caitrin realizes that a terrible tragedy played out in the keep’s past and vows to help bring the residual effects to an end.
I forgot how much I love Juliet Marillier’s books. She writes re-tellings so well! This one is based on Beauty and the Beast but set in Ireland. From the wild and rugged landscape to the damaged hero and heroine saving each other, I pretty much loved every page of this book.
Caitrin has been badly hurt. She’s lost herself in her recent tragedy. As she finds that she cares for the motley group of people she’s living with, she starts to heal and leave her own past behind. Her interest in others is what ultimately saves her. It would have been easy to leave her past in the past but Marillier tackles it too. It adds some length to the book but it adds so much depth to Caitrin’s character that I’m glad she did it.
Anluan–what do I say about him without giving things away? Not much. He grew on me as he grew on Caitrin.
It took me longer to figure out where the book was going than it usually does. Even then, I wasn’t entirely sure. I was anxious to keep reading to find out if I was right. I definitely didn’t see what the answer to everyone’s problem was going to be!
I do tend to love books where people who’ve had some bad breaks in life come together to form their own circle of family-by-choice. That is very much the case here. Everyone on the hill was broken but they brought out the best in each other. There were about six secondary characters and they were all memorable in their own ways.
I wouldn’t say that Ms. Marillier spent a lot of time describing the Irish landscape, but at the same time it became so real to me that it could have been a character itself. The crumbling keep, the lonely village, the haunted forest–I can picture them all in my mind’s eye even now.
Fans of fairy tale retellings will enjoy this one. Readers who like characters and settings that come to life on the page will enjoy it too.
Read an excerpt.
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