This is one book that I really wanted to give 5/5 stars to, because everyone else who suggested I read it, did. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get into it as much as I wanted to. The characters and the world came across as flat and predictable. It begins with Blackthorn, who is imprisoned. She manages to make a deal with a mysterious man who promises her freedom IF she travels to Dalriada. Once there, she is to set up as the local healer, and help anyone who needs it. Her companion, Grim, who she meets in prison, follows after her. Because she worries about breaking her vow (helping anyone who needs it) she eventually decides to let him work with her, and they form a comfortable friendship (though they each keep their own secrets).
Meanwhile, Oran, who is the prince of Dalriada, is waiting for his future bride, Lady Flidais. He feels like he knows her intimately, though they have never met. When she finally arrives, tragedy strikes, and the lady is shaken from head to toe. From there the story changes. Lady Flidais is nothing like how Oran imagined her to be. She doesn’t act anything like her letters, and as time goes on the mystery only deepens.
Blackthorn raises her standing with the locals as a healer, and eventually Oran hears about her gift for solving problems. He approaches her for help, and together her, Grim, and Oran must all work together, or much more than just a marriage will be in jeopardy.
I think one of the main reasons I didn’t enjoy reading it was because I had already ‘solved’ the mystery before it was even presented. Once I knew what the mystery was, I just wanted them to move along at a faster pace to solve it. The writer, however, had a different idea, and things moved very slowly through the first portion of the book. It was not until the last 25% or so that things then seemed to move at a frantic pace, almost too fast. The book also seemed to imply a lot of sex shaming, which I didn’t enjoy reading. To take a quote from another reviewer who said it better than I could: “I find it regrettable that the only consensual sex featured in this book full of rape and pervasive abuse of female characters (which in Blackthorn’s and the village girl’s cases lead nearly to their deaths), is used as a primary basis for establishing the antagonist’s character as nefarious, manipulative and dangerous.” Now the comments to that do go on to say that for the time period the story took place in that this would have been considered inappropriate behaviour, but my thoughts still stay the same.
Still, the book WAS an enjoyable read, overall. It didn’t quite live up to the hype of what I was expecting, but I have read far worse books over the years.